Coalition mobilizes to protect the vote

The Baltimore Sun debunked Republican charges that ACORN is flooding state election boards with phony voter registration cards. “This sounds more like partisan sniping than legitimate complaints aimed at protecting ballot box integrity,” the Oct. 13 Sun editorial charged. ACORN is required by law to deliver all voter registration cards, including duplicates and those improperly filled out, to election boards, and ACORN flagged all faulty cards, the Sun said. “ACORN says it’s registered 1.3 million voters nationwide. Any operation that big is bound to produce errors but the irregularities cited by GOP critics are miniscule compared with the number of valid applications.”

It’s not voter registration fraud that is the problem, groups charge, it’s potential violations of voters rights. With the Nov. 4 election just weeks away, the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition warns that tens of thousands of newly registered voters are being purged illegally from voter registration rolls. “We can see a perfect storm developing here,” said Gerry Hebert, executive director of the coalition, which includes among its 100 affiliates the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Service Employees International Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, NAACP, Rock the Vote, and League of United Latin American Citizens.

The Justice Department is not doing enough to guarantee voting rights, Hebert said. The DOJ claims it is fulfilling its responsibility by sending letters to the 50 secretaries of state reminding them of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which prohibits purging voters within 90 days of an election.

Hebert asked, “What will the Justice Department do if within the next three weeks they discover that a state has still illegally purged voters?”

He cited an Oct. 9 New York Times report that election officials in half a dozen swing states have purged “tens of thousand of eligible voters” in ways that “appear to violate federal law.” The article identifies Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina as states where the purges have taken place.

“Some are removed for legitimate reasons like death or moving out of state,” Hebert continued. “But others have been removed because of a mismatch on government databases. That is highly suspect because there are many reasons these databases may not match.”

For example, a voter registration database may use a voter’s middle initial while a motor vehicle administration database may use the full middle name. Names change when people get married or divorced. That’s why the federal Help America Vote Act prohibits purging voter rolls close to an election, Hebert said.

“A mismatch on databases alone is not sufficient basis for purging a voter,” he said. “If your name is not on the voter list, fill out an application, sign it and vote by provisional ballot. No one who believes he or she is registered to vote should leave the polling place without voting.”

The Election Protection Coalition has set up a phone hotline to a center staffed by volunteers trained to assist anyone facing denial of his or her voting rights. The number is 1-866-OUR VOTE in English and 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA in Spanish.

(Another resource is the website CanIVote.org, sponsored by the National Association of Secretaries of State, where you can check if you are registered to vote or not.)

Hebert pointed to estimates of 9 million newly registered voters. “There has been a huge influx of first-time voters,” he said. “For these people to show up at the polls and find they have been struck from the voting rolls because of some mismatch in databases, that’s the worst thing that can happen to a new voter.”

Hebert said the coalition is also concerned that local election boards are not preparing adequately for Nov. 4. “It is their responsibility to provide enough voting machines and ballots for what is expected to be an enormously high voter turnout on Election Day,” he said. “Our coalition has been working with state and local elections boards to make sure these problems have been corrected. We get assurances. But they gave us these same assurances in elections past.”

The Washington Post reported Oct. 6 that about 4 million new voters have been registered in a dozen key states, with Sen. Barack Obama “poised to benefit … in numbers that far outweigh any gains made by Republicans.” The margins favoring the Democrats were 4 to 1 in Colorado and Nevada and 6 to 1 in North Carolina.

In Florida, 800,000 have been added to the voter rolls. Many were signed up by a coalition that includes the AFL-CIO, Alliance of Retired Americans, ACORN and many other grassroots organizations. The number includes 360,478 new Democratic voters compared to 190,137 new Republican voters. Another 253,294 Floridians registered as independents.

Ohio added 700,000 new voters, predominantly in Democratic-leaning parts of the state.

In North Carolina, Democrats gained 208,000 new voters this year compared to 34,000 new Republican voters.

In Pennsylvania, 474,000 voters were added to the Democratic rolls while the Republicans suffered a net decline of 38,000.

In Nevada, the labor-led voter registration drive added 91,000 new voters to Democratic rolls, switching the state to majority Democrat. Colorado added 80,000 new Democratic voters to their rolls and New Mexico 40,000. These gains in voter registration suggest an Obama-Biden landslide may be in the making.

greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com