News Release

As Problems Persist in Florida Elections, Law Students Organize for Voting Integrity


In an editorial published on September 7, the New York Times stated: “There is no excuse for turning away eligible voters at the polls, but that is what apparently happened in Florida’s primary elections last week. Under Florida law, registered voters can vote without showing identification. But election officials at some polling places misstated the law and tried to keep eligible voters from voting.”
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Gerken is an assistant professor of law at Harvard Law School and is on the advisory board of Just Democracy. She said today: “Although most Americans assumed that the problems we saw in 2000 have been fixed, we may wake up the day after the election hearing Yogi Berra’s voice: it’s deja vu all over again. Florida hasn’t even succeeded in fixing its election-related problems, and Florida is just the tip of the iceberg. Numerous states — including many swing states — may well encounter problems in administering their elections. Given how close the election is right now, there’s a very good chance that we could find ourselves mired in another recount controversy this year.”

Neuman is the communications coordinator of Just Democracy. He said today: “Just Democracy plans to recruit and place more than 2,000 law students with expertise in election law at what they believe could be high-risk polling places around the nation. According to a recent study by the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project, between 2.5 and 4 million voters were wrongly excluded from the last presidential election. Problems and mistakes that led to the exclusions included voter registration errors and confusion at polling places. Other problems identified in the 2000 election were voter intimidation and improper operation of polling places. Throughout the last few months, Just Democracy has established 45 chapters in over 30 states, and is designing training programs throughout American law schools.”

O’Brien is the co-founder and co-director of Just Democracy. She said today: “Whatever one’s politics, seeing eligible, motivated voters wrongly denied their right to participate is an offense to democratic principles. Just Democracy is a completely non-partisan network of law school chapters.”
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Williams is the president of IMPACT, a network of law students that was founded and run out of Columbia University. She said today: “IMPACT has decided to focus its on-the-ground efforts on the 12 states where we believe that polling practices and ballot irregularities could cause the election to swing one way or another. We believe that voter protection is essential in states with highly competitive elections, because historically it is in these battlegrounds that intimidation tactics are most prevalent. As a non-partisan organization, IMPACT has no vested interest in any particular outcome of the 2004 presidential election.”

She added: “We did a trial run during last week’s primary in Florida. We trained and deployed 45 law students to targeted precincts to assist voters. We were able to respond to voters’ inquiries regarding identification requirements and correct precinct assignments. We also gave a voter bill of rights to every voter in the precincts we were able to cover. I encountered many people who were at the incorrect precinct. I was able to call our hotline and inform those voters of the correct precinct. We will be training hundreds more lawyers and law students at Columbia law school September 18.”
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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