ACLU Calls On Justice Department To Force States To Comply With Federal Laws

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NEW YORK – In response to a news report showing that tens of thousands of eligible voters are being illegally removed from voter rolls or blocked from registering to vote, the American Civil Liberties Union calls on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to require states to comply with federal law. The New York Times reported today that election officials in at least nine states are violating federal law by either improperly using Social Security data to screen newly registered voters or removing thousands of voters after the federal deadline expired.

The ACLU is challenging voter suppression efforts throughout the country, including unlawful voter purges in Michigan.

"These purges are in violation of federal law, including the National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits such purges of voters 90 days before a federal election," said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "Of course states should update their voter lists with accurate information, but they should do so in a way that complies with the law and is not driven by partisan bias and does not have an adverse impact on racial and language minorities. Regrettably, our past and recent history is filled with examples of partisan bias driving voter purging and vote suppression. If these practices are allowed to continue, we could see thousands of eligible voters show up on Election Day only to find that they were removed from the rolls."

The states covered in the New York Times report are Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio.

"It is the duty of our federal government to ensure that all eligible voters have access to the voting booth and that their voices are heard. Today's revelation that some are being denied this fundamental constitutional right is very disturbing," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The Justice Department must prosecute these states for being overly aggressive in purging voter rolls and blocking people from registering to vote. As we approach this groundbreaking election, it is vital that the DOJ return to its historic role of expanding access to the polls for all voters regardless of race, national origin, language proficiency or disability. A vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation."

Through a multi-pronged effort of litigation and legislative advocacy, the ACLU is on the front lines fighting assaults on voting rights that disenfranchise voters and threaten the fairness of November's election. In addition to unlawful purges, the ACLU is currently challenging the practice of "caging," felony disfranchisement, ballot and language access violations and voting rights violations in Indian Country.

An overview of the work of the ACLU Voting Rights Project's litigation is available at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/36949res20080929.html

More information on the ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights

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