News Release

High Voter Turnout and the U.S. Voting Infrastructure

TOVA WANG
Wang is the vice president for research at Common Cause and author of the newly released report, “Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States.” She said today: “While some problems have been fixed since the last (2004) election, some major problems remain and new ones have cropped up. … It’s unfortunate that our voting infrastructure is based on the assumption and anticipation of low participation. And, indeed, we’ve had very low levels of participation for a long time, but this year could potentially be different. What we need is a system in place that invests the resources to ensure a smooth voting process and anticipates and encourages full participation of our citizenry.”

Wang added: “While some states have taken steps to improve their election procedures, several still have a number of structural and statutory weaknesses that put voting rights at risk once again this year. … Many states have flawed procedures for matching the information voters give them when they register with other state databases, and some have no established protocols for doing so at all. Uniquely, Florida will continue to require that prospective voters prove eligibility by providing the exact information that appears on existing state databases. This policy often results in rejections of valid registered voters if the voter provides a variant of his or her name instead of a full name, a clerical error is made on the election administration side, or a voter makes another minor mistake.”

SCOT ROSS
Ross is the executive director of One Vote Wisconsin. He said today: “JB Van Hollen, the [state] Republican Attorney General, who also serves as the co-chair of John McCain’s presidential campaign, is filing a lawsuit that could cripple rights of voters in Wisconsin. Van Hollen is trying to force the state to dump from voter rolls anyone who does not have an exact match with their registration and their DMV or other public records. So, for example, if you had a middle initial in your driver’s license but your full middle name in your voter form, you could be deleted from the voter rolls. Strikingly, four of the six members of the Government Accountability Board, the body charged with deciding these rules, failed this exact match test due to differences in name order or middle names. Under the proposed rules, even they would have been disenfranchised. This move could also potentially delay or block sending of absentee ballots to soldiers who are stationed overseas. … This is an attempt at using our tax dollars to restrict our right to vote — an especially egregious move this year when we expect high levels of voter turnout.”
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LINDA BROWN
Brown is the executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. She said today: “Arizona will be experiencing the first presidential election under the new ID laws, potentially with the highest turnout on record. Our experience during the 2006 elections, primaries and our observations as the election day nears reveals that we may experience significant disenfranchisement. For one thing, the new ID law makes it very hard for certain populations — those without a driver’s license, the elderly, the disabled, etc. — to register. On our website, we have profiled a case of a 57-year-old disabled woman with a son in Iraq, Eva Steele, who could not register because she has none of the requirements (property tax records, utility bills, drivers license) because she lives in an assisted living facility. This might be the first election in her adult life in which she could not vote.”

Brown added: “Further, we find that poll workers are inadequately trained. They receive at most two hours of training to cover all aspects of running today’s complex polling centers. Just covering the basics of the ID laws would take longer. We often find people being incorrectly denied the right the vote because the poll workers are ignorant of the law or people simply give up because the line simply becomes too long while the poll workers struggle to deal with the ID requirements. Our estimate for 2006 was that 28,000 voters might have been incorrectly turned away and tens of thousands simply gave up. With expected record turnout, the situation will likely be much worse this time.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167