ACLU Launches Voter Protection Initiative

November 1, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org 

Civil Liberties Group Establishes Hotline to Report Election Day Voting Rights Violations

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it is poised to respond to voting rights infringements across the country this upcoming Election Day. The organization has launched a toll free hotline so voters can report voting rights violations and irregularities on Tuesday, November 7. Voters with complaints are encouraged to call the organization's toll-free voter hotline, 1-877-523-2792. The hotline will operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST.

“The right to vote is essential to our democracy,” said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “To deny any eligible voter that opportunity is to undermine the fundamental freedoms that define who we are as a nation.”

As part of its Election Day efforts, the ACLU Voting Rights Project and various ACLU state affiliates will monitor polling sites and respond to incidents of voter intimidation, vote suppression or election irregularities.

In conjunction with state affiliates, the ACLU has distributed more than 70,000 voter empowerment cards in English, Spanish and Creole, which contain information for voters about their rights and ways to avoid problems when voting.  In particular, the ACLU is concerned about the following problems on Election Day: 

    • Voter harassment or intimidation, including slurs or signs of bias among poll workers;

    • Denying voters access to provisional ballots when they are eligible to receive them;

    • Problems with voting machines, including human errors and technology-related problems;

    • Efforts to have voters produce identification or proof of citizenship when not required by law;

    • Disinformation campaigns, such as posting fliers in minority neighborhoods that give false information on voting requirements or procedures;

    • Moving or closing polling places on short notice or without sufficient warning;

    • Placing phony voters in line to lengthen the wait and discourage voting;

    • Efforts to tamper with voting machines; and,

    • Excessive and unnecessary presence of uniformed law enforcement personnel at polling places.

    "We urge citizens to be on the lookout for any practices that serve to minimize, weaken, or prevent an individual or group's effort to exercise the fundamental right to participate in the electoral process," said McDonald.

    This year, the ACLU played a leading role in passage of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, the law that renewed key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

    "It is unfortunate that forty years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act it is still necessary to protect the right to vote against an obstacle course of voter ID, provisional balloting and other regulations as well as a variety of partisan voter suppression schemes,” said Howard L. Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. "We hope that our Voter Empowerment Cards, our hotline number and the volunteers and attorneys we have standing by will help people to defend their right to vote."

    The ACLU is also concerned about the systematic disfranchisement of voters with felony convictions, which has a disproportionate impact on minority voters. To address the problem this year, the ACLU of Northern California has launched the "Every Vote Counts" campaign. It is a dynamic public education campaign designed to inform individuals with felony convictions about their right to vote in California once they have finished serving their sentences and parole.

    The ACLU’s 2006 Election Day monitoring effort is based on the organization’s experiences in prior elections, including 2004, when the organization responded to incidents of voter intimidation in Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and Florida. Problems ranged from 20,000 absentee voters in Florida receiving ballots too late to cast their votes to the placement of partisan “challengers” at polling places in minority neighborhoods in Ohio. On October 20, the ACLU of Virginia asked the Department of Justice to monitor elections in Chesterfield County, VA after two years of irregularities that included the presence of armed guards outside polling places and official refusals to count provisional ballots.

    “All voters should be able to travel to the polls and be free from harassment, free from disinformation and free from intimidation. If that doesn’t happen, the ACLU will be there to monitor and address illegal and discriminatory election practices wherever they may occur,” said McDonald.

    For more information on the ACLU Voting Rights Project, go to: www.aclu.org/votingrights.

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