News Release

Several Million Voters To Be Deprived Of Voting Rights Again?


MIKE ALVAREZ via Jill Perry
TED SELKER via Patti Richards
A recent report by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project for the Election Assistance Commission, an independent agency that serves as a national clearinghouse for information on the administration of federal elections, states that “four relatively simple and inexpensive steps can be taken to ensure that voting procedures in this fall’s presidential election are as accurate and reliable as possible.” The report also includes several steps that the group believes are necessary for avoiding lost votes in November.

Mike Alvarez is a professor of political science at Caltech. He said: “Between 4 and 6 million voters were disenfranchised in the 2000 election. Although some progress has been made these past four years, we are still concerned that millions of votes could be lost in November — particularly if the popular vote is close.” Ted Selker, associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, said: “Procedural improvements can still be made this year to ensure that we have only a fraction of the errors that we had in 2000.” The report recommends collecting the information that would be needed to audit the 2004 election, fixing common ballot problems, producing provisional voting guidelines and developing common complaint procedures and election monitoring processes.

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Joanne Bland is the director and co-founder of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama. Bland was an 11-year-old participant in the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965, which was blocked in Selma on March 7 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This nationally televised incident, where marchers demanding the right to vote were billy-clubbed, tear-gassed and whipped with cattle prods by police, became known as Bloody Sunday. The young Bland was jailed along with hundreds of marchers. Two days later, on March 9, Martin Luther King Jr. came to Selma to lead a symbolic march to the bridge and five months later the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. She said today: “I have to say, when the scandal over the Florida election broke in 2000, we felt a sense of relief here in Selma, Alabama, because what happened in Florida in 2000 had been happening to our community since the day the Voting Rights Act was passed. We thought that finally there might be some national attention to this problem, now that it involved two rich white men. This demonstrates why disenfranchisement of minorities is not just one community’s issue; if you let them do this to us for generations, you will find that it will also be done to you and your children in the future. If people had paid attention to what had been happening in Selma and elsewhere for decades, maybe measures could have been put in place to prevent what happened in Florida.”

She added: “As a participant in the struggle for voting rights, I am particularly concerned with voter apathy. I think this is caused by many not realizing the value of their vote. … If having the power to elect representatives who have your well-being as a priority was not important, why were battles fought to prevent certain groups from having it? Also, it’s not enough to have the right to vote on paper. It’s not good enough to register and to vote on election day and think that your civic duty is done. The people in power are the very people who control the election process, who count your vote, who record the numbers. We have to fight on those fronts too.”

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