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Pittsburgh Election Officials “Grossly Incompetent” On Nov. 2nd

StoryNovember 19, 2004
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As controversy rages over the fairness of the November 2nd election we take a look at voting problems in Pittsburgh with Celeste Taylor of the National Election Protection effort. [includes rush transcript]

In election news, researchers at the University of California Berkeley released a study Thursday that claims President Bush may have received at least 130,000 extra and unexplained votes in Florida in counties that used electronic voting machines.

The researchers claim that Bush received an unexplainably high number of votes in several heavily Democratic counties that used electronic voting. One of the researchers Michael Hout said “I’ve concluded something went awry with e-voting in Florida.”

While the UC Berkeley study examined only voting irregularities in Florida, today we are going to examine what happened here in Pennsylvania, another heavily contested state.

We are joined here in the studio with Celeste Taylor, the Pittsburgh coordinator for the national Election Protection effort.

  • Celeste Taylor, Pittsburgh coordinator for the National Election Protection effort.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined in the studio by Celeste Taylor. She was the Pittsburgh coordinator for the National Election Protection effort. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

CELESTE TAYLOR: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us, Celeste. Very quickly, can you run down what you observed, and what the Election Protection Coalition is, and what you found?

CELESTE TAYLOR: Yes. The Election Protection Program was established in the wake of what happened in the last presidential election in 2000. Because of new laws that were established in 2002, with Help America Vote Act, it was necessary to make sure that when people voted on November 2, 2004, they would have their voting rights protected. So in Allegheny County, I have been well aware of the need for education as well as monitoring on election day, but had no idea what group would be able to help us. People for the American Way Foundation was that group. It’s an umbrella group that has the NAACP, Project Vote, ACORN and many others. What they were able to do is to help us train 320 poll monitors that were at 60 different polling locations. We chose those polling locations based on their vulnerability. We had poll monitors at the University of Pittsburgh as well as minority and low income polling sites.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you find?

CELESTE TAYLOR: We found that the provisional ballot, which was supposed to be a way that all citizens who were registered properly would be able to cast their vote. What we found out is it actually helped citizens not vote. That was the case because there weren’t enough of them, and the people that are to be trained inside, the people that are hired by the county election bureau were grossly just incompetent in terms of their information, and that’s why we found it necessary to pass out thousands and thousands of voters’ bill of rights, so that people could demand that they get this provisional ballot. So we have a stack of complaints. That’s what this is, many affidavits. Time after time, people would go to vote at their polling site and they would be told that they were not on the poll book. These are people that had their voter registration cards. Then they were denied a provisional ballot.

AMY GOODMAN: How were they denied?

CELESTE TAYLOR: They were told that we didn’t — we don’t have them. Some polling locations didn’t have them first thing in the morning, 8:00 a.m., when the polls opened —- 7:00 a.m., rather. And some polling locations ran out very quickly, because there were only 25 provisional ballots provided per site. And actually, that number decreased. The decision was made the day before to decrease it to 12. So, I have -—

AMY GOODMAN: So there’s 12 provisional ballots at a site. So if you are the 13th person who is contested, you have no ballot that you can cast.

CELESTE TAYLOR: You are out of luck. For many locations where we were at, where we knew that this was a population that had registered to vote in record numbers, new first-time voters, we already knew that their names were not on the voter files, because we had looked at 10,000 applications and followed the process through the county election bureau.

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.

CELESTE TAYLOR: So, we feel that this is a very important effort, because democracy means nothing if the processes that you establish are not working. So we’re still working in Allegheny County to make sure that those provisional ballots are counted.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Celeste Taylor, for joining us. Pittsburgh coordinator of National Election Protection effort.

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