The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Activists Take Measures to Ensure Fair Elections

by Catherine Komp

Nov. 6, 2006 – Civil-rights and public-interest groups across the country will be dispatching lawyers, sending out poll monitors, and staffing hotlines across the country Tuesday in an effort to protect against potential voting-rights infringements.

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In advance of the election, the American Civil Liberties Union says it has distributed tens of thousands of multi-lingual "voter empowerment" cards informing voters about their rights and how to avoid problems at the polls.

Concerns listed by the ACLU include potential voter harassment or intimidation, disinformation campaigns, and "excessive and unnecessary presence of uniformed law enforcement personnel at polling places." The civil rights group is sending observers to polling places and launched a toll-free voter hotline: 1-877-523-2792.

People for the American Way (PFAW), which first launched an "Election Protection" effort after the 2000 presidential election, said it will send thousands of volunteers to key polling places and staff hundreds of lawyers at their hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

The NAACP, partnering with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and other groups, is focusing its monitoring efforts on precincts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Ben Blustein, attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told reporters during a press briefing Friday that monitoring efforts have been successful in the past. During the September primary in Baltimore, numerous voters reported problems casting ballots during the morning hours. Lawyers immediately went to court and succeeded in convincing a judge to extend election hours so people could return to polling places to vote later in the day.

"We really couldn’t have done this without directly hearing from the voters through our hotline," Blustein said.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund says it will send more than 500 attorneys, law students and volunteers to cover 150 poll sites where Asian-Americans have experienced intimidation in the past, including New York, Massachusetts and Michigan.

Several groups are also encouraging voters to use their cell phones to capture and publish video of voting at the polls. YouthNoise, an international youth-led social change network, partnered with Veeker, a mobile video communication company, is encouraging youth to record their experiences on Election Day. The group says that within 15 to 60 seconds of submitting a video clip, it will appear on the website.

Similarly, the "Video the Vote" campaign, launched by three independent filmmakers and activists, has coordinated volunteers across the country to digitally record any irregularities on Tuesday. The video clips will be posted online, on blogs and various websites.

Responding to widespread concerns that tampering or malfunction could disenfranchise voters using electronic machines, PFAW says it has also mobilized 2,900 specially trained college students to monitor Chicago-area polling places for technical mishaps or irregularities.

Groups say that the 2006 Election Day monitoring efforts are necessary because of widespread problems reported in 2004, and in subsequent elections.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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