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2006-11-07

Election Protection 2006: Coalition Sending Voting Monitors to Polls, Sets Up Toll-Free Hotline

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With new registration rules, faulty computer voting machines, and stringent identification requirements, many Americans are concerned over whether their vote will be counted on Election Day 2006. In response, three major civil rights groups have formed a new coalition to offer voters some Election Day assistance. [includes rush transcript]

With new registration rules, faulty computer voting machines, and stringent identification requirements, many Americans are concerned over whether their vote will be counted on this 2006 Election Day. Well, three major civil rights groups have formed a new coalition to offer voters some Election Day assistance. The Election Protection Coalition is sending monitors to voting centers across the country. They’ve also established a toll-free hotline for voters to call in case they experience problems at the polls. The coalition is lead by the People For the American Way, the NAACP, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Barbara Arnwine joins us on the phone right now. She’s executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, part of this coalition, on the phone from Baltimore, Maryland. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Barbara Arnwine.

BARBARA ARNWINE: Well, good morning, and thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. People are already going to the polls. What have you heard, and how are you protecting the elections today?

BARBARA ARNWINE: Well, we have over 2,000 lawyers spread over 19 states, making sure that we can respond, if necessary, either with litigation, either with working, interfacing with election officials or in the polling sites, correcting problems all over those 19 states, several counties. We’re also running the nationwide hotline, the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, 1-866-687-8683. We are receiving calls literally from all over the country. The hotline is just extremely busy.

We are hearing the following problems. ID laws, they are causing major chaos throughout the country, lots of confusion. A whole lot of states, where there are no photo identification requirements, people are making folks produce photo IDs, even though there’s no such requirement legally. Indeed, many people might have read that the Secretary of State of Missouri herself was requested to provide ID three times yesterday, even though she has — their state does not require it at this time.

Machine problems, big problems. The most common problem we’re hearing about is mis-registration of votes, that when people vote for one candidate, it’s saying it’s the other candidate. That’s a big problem all over the country.

Polling places not opening, we’ve had that in Pennsylvania, some in Ohio. Illinois, believe it or not, has been one of our worst states this morning. And most of those problems are the lack of machines and the refusal of poll workers to give provisional ballots, as required by federal law.

The other things we’re seeing, again, is no provisional ballots not being given in other states. We have gotten a lot of calls from the big states so far — have been Pennsylvania, Illinois — Ohio dominates the hotline right now with the most problems — Maryland, Georgia, and Florida. Those are the states that we’re hearing from with a lot, a lot of issues.

AMY GOODMAN: And again, the phone number, it’s 866-OUR-VOTE?

BARBARA ARNWINE: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Our vote.

BARBARA ARNWINE: Our vote.

AMY GOODMAN: And what kind of help can you give? People report a problem, but are you telling people how they can remedy the problem?

BARBARA ARNWINE: Oh, absolutely. What we do — and, I mean, that’s the whole purpose of the hotline, is to take care of the problems. We’re not there just to make some kind of data entry. We want to help people, so what we’re doing is that when voters are calling us, for example, when we got the call about the Prince George’s County identification problem in Maryland, we have already sent lawyers there to talk with the poll workers and the election judges to make them stop that. And if they don’t stop it, we will sue them today. I expect that it will be resolved. We’ve been talking directly, when people have been told that they’re not registered, we’ve been talking directly to the poll workers and saying, "Listen, here is where we find their registration. You’re wrong," and helping them to resolve that.

AMY GOODMAN: Barbara Arnwine, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we hope to talk to you again tomorrow to get reports on what has happened. Again, that number, if you have any problem voting, is 866-OUR-VOTE. Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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