News Release

* Provisional Ballots * Instant Runoff Voting Implemented in San Francisco * Voter Rights * The Right to Cast a Vote That Counts


Rapoport is the president of Demos, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. He said today: “The question of whether to accept provisional ballots cast at the wrong polling place pits voter access not against the worthy goal of fraud prevention, but instead against more mundane concerns of administrative convenience. As a former secretary of state, I certainly sympathize with the difficulty of administering elections, especially when voter interest is high. But election officials must not let the challenges of a full Election Day workload get in the way of one of their core duties: facilitating ballot access to all eligible voters and promoting fair and transparent elections. … There will be millions of new voters going to the polls on Tuesday. It’s inevitable that some may be confused about which polling place to go to, but that is no excuse to rob people of their right to vote.” [The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared that Ohio and Michigan are not required under the Help America Vote Act to count provisional ballots cast by eligible voters who appear at the wrong polling place. In Florida and in many other states election officials have said that provisional ballots can be used only by voters who are at the right precinct but not on the registration list. Some litigation on the issue is currently underway.] More Information

Richie is the executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. He said today: “American citizens care deeply about their right to vote. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for how their government provides and protects that right. Florida and Ohio will toss out all ‘provisional ballots’ cast by registered voters who were not informed they were in the wrong polling place. A Nevada state judge rejected a lawsuit seeking to re-open voter registration for citizens whose registrations were torn up by a partisan voter registration firm rather than submitted. Most voters in Ohio will use the thoroughly discredited punchcard system, while many others around the nation will vote on new ‘touchscreen’ systems developed by private companies with proprietary software that is poorly tested and regulated and lacks a voter verifiable paper trail. Against all international norms, states collectively have stripped voting rights from nearly 5 million American citizens due to felony convictions.”
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Hill is senior analyst with the Center for Voting and Democracy. He was co-author of the San Francisco ballot measure for instant runoff voting, and led the effort to pass and implement the city’s IRV charter amendment. He said today: “On November 2, San Francisco will elect seven seats on the Board of Supervisors using a method called instant runoff voting (IRV). Instant runoff voting, which has been used for decades in other nations like Ireland and Australia, simulates a series of runoff elections but in a single election. … With IRV, voters rank their first, second and third choice candidates for each race. If your first choice gets eliminated from the ‘instant runoff,’ your vote goes to your second choice candidate. So voters are liberated to vote for the candidates they really like, no more ‘lesser of two evils’ dilemmas. … To understand the national implications of instant runoff voting, think back to the 2000 presidential election. If the nearly hundred thousand Ralph Nader voters in Florida could have ranked a second candidate as their runoff choice, there’s no question that tens of thousands would have ranked Al Gore … who would have been the recipient of all those runoff votes, won the state of Florida and its electoral votes. … IRV also offers something for those tired of polarized politics and mudslinging campaigns. Whether at local or national levels, IRV encourages coalition-building between candidates. … Already in most of San Francisco’s seven supervisorial races we have seen less mudslinging, more coalition-building and issue-based campaigning than in previous years.”
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Fullenkamp is a law student volunteering with Just Democracy, a national network of law students, organized in chapters based at law schools, mobilizing to be present at local polling places to act as resources for voters and poll workers on Election Day. She said today: “Like almost everyone in the country, I stayed up late in 2000, trying to find out who my next president would be. As I started hearing of all the problems that had led to voter confusion and vote loss, I began to get angry. We’d been a democracy for over 200 years, but still hadn’t figured out something as fundamental as conducting elections? While most of the stories focused on Florida, I was mostly concerned about the stories I was hearing from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri — polls closing, votes getting tossed, people having to stand in line for hours, polling sites closing at the last minute because of partisan poll workers not showing up, etc. … However, as the next presidential election neared I began to grow more concerned about the lack of progress I had seen in St. Louis to prevent these problems from happening again. The Help America Vote Act, especially provisional balloting, seems to create more confusion than it alleviates. During the midterm election, I was almost prevented from voting myself since someone had marked that I was voting absentee when it was my sister who had requested a ballot.”

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