News Release

Confusion Threatens Voting Rights: Voters Warned to Defend Their Rights

SPENCER OVERTON
A law professor at George Washington University, Overton was a commissioner on the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform. Author of the new book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression, Overton said today: “In the 2006 elections, mass confusion is the biggest threat to the right to vote. Much disenfranchisement will be de facto — rather than legal — disenfranchisement. Politicians have created a maze of 4600 different election systems — all with different rules and practices — and the confusion over the rules itself threatens to chill voter participation. Some Americans may be discouraged from voting because they mistakenly assume that they need a photo ID or that the lines will be 4 hours long. People who have had a brush with the law may stay home, even though in most states ex-felons can vote.

“Often, state election boards contribute to the confusion and misinformation. In Georgia, even after the court struck down the photo ID requirement, the state election board mailed out hundreds of thousands of letters indicating that voters needed photo ID to vote. The Florida election board’s website suggests that a photo ID is required to cast a vote, but doesn’t indicate that voters who don’t have a photo ID can cast a ballot. Confused voters and election workers without adequate training may be intimidated by new electronic voting machines. I want to encourage people to go to the polls and vote. Voters should not disenfranchise themselves by being intimidated by this confusion.”
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WENDY WEISER
JUSTIN LEVITT
Weiser is deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where she runs a voting rights project. Levitt is associate counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center.

In an op-ed she co-wrote for the New York Times, published yesterday, Weiser stated: “On November 7, many voters will encounter new voting machines, new computerized voter lists and new rules regarding registration and ID requirements. As primaries earlier this year demonstrated, local officials and poll workers are overwhelmed by all the changes — some of them engineered by mischievous partisans who have passed laws and rules that would block many eligible citizens from voting. There is a silent disenfranchisement afoot ­– one that could affect hundreds of thousands of voters. …

“In the 2004 presidential election, some states were decided by less than 1 percent of the vote. This year, dozens of Congressional races could be close enough that vote suppression would affect them. … Congress and state legislatures should spurn partisan attempts to manipulate elections by imposing new voting requirements, like proof of citizenship and identification. They should ban wireless components in voting machines and require an audited paper trail. Judges should continue to strike down illegal and anti-democratic laws. And citizens and journalists should demand to know who is being purged from the rolls, and why. All registered voters should cast their ballots and insist their votes be counted.”

Added Levitt: “At a minimum voters should demand a provisional ballot.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167