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Voting booth
07.30.04
Politics and Economy:
One Person, One Vote?
More on This Story:
Protecting Voters' Rights

NOW's piece "One Person, One Vote?" reports on the problems with America's voting system. In Florida, controversial new voting technology could create another vote-counting mess like that in the 2000 election. In the months leading up to the 2004 election, civil rights and civic organizations are coordinating their efforts to address Election Day irregularities and voting rights violations.

One coalition developed in response to the 2000 election debacle is Voices of the Electorate (V.O.T.E.). This spring the coalition launched the nationwide, nonpartisan Election Protection program with kick-off events in four states: Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The program will distribute state-specific "Voters' Bill of Rights" brochures for at least 30 states and will provide poll monitors to watch for possible instances of voter intimidation or suppression, as well as toll-free voter hotlines to provide voters with instant access to free legal advice.

Some legislators are acting too. On May 22, 2003, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) responded to concern from election reform specialists and computer security experts about the integrity of future elections by introducing reform legislation, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 (H.R. 2239). The measure would require all voting machines to produce an actual paper record that voters can view to check the accuracy of their votes and that election officials can use to verify votes in the event of a computer malfunction, hacking, or other irregularity. Experts often refer to this paper record as a “voter-verified paper trail.” On June 22, 2004 citizen activists and Members of Congress held a press conference on Capitol Hill to push Congress to pass Rep. Holt's bill.

Below, find out what you can do to protect your own rights by following links to the sites of key members of the V.O.T.E. coalition as well as other groups working on voting issues. A list of all the organizations working as part of the Election Protection 2004 coalition is available from People for the American Way. To find your state's division of elections, consult NOW's state-by-state Voter Resource Map.

Resources

Center for Voting and Democracy: Voter Turnout and Mobilization
The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit organization dedicated to fair elections where every vote counts and all voters are represented. The Center conducts research, analysis, education and advocacy to build understanding of and support for more democratic voting systems. The Center promotes full representation as an alternative to winner-take-all elections and instant runoff voting as an alternative to plurality elections and traditional runoff elections. The site offers statistics on voting trends, articles on different forms of voting, and a list of sites focused on voter mobilization in 2004.

Demos
The nonpartisan organization Demos supports democracy reform efforts on both the federal and state levels with tools such as its Democracy Dispatches, a bi-weekly newsletter that tracks and analyzes legislative and political developments on democracy issues in all 50 states. The Demos Web site offers state-by-state information on voter registration, voting, provisional ballots, language access, and more for 15 selected states. Also, learn more about the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and Election Day Registration.

Diebold Election Systems
Diebold developed the controversial touch screen voting technology described in NOW's segment "One Person, One Vote?" According to the company's official site, over 75,000 Diebold electronic voting stations are being used in locations across the United States.

The Election Assistance Commission
The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent bipartisan agency, is authorized by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to serve as "a national clearinghouse and resource for the comparison of information" on various matters involving the administration of Federal elections.

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
One of the leaders of the Election Protection program, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law will be coordinating Election Protection Attorney Networks in each of a set of targeted states, comprised of volunteer attorneys and law students. The group's site lists these target states, offers "Voter's Bill of Rights" information for selected stated, describes volunteer activities, and more.

NAACP Voter Empowerment Program
The non-partisan NAACP Voter Empowerment Program is an aggressive campaign designed to empower the African American community by increasing awareness and participation in the full political process in local, state, and federal elections. The nationwide program places special emphasis on southern and southern border states, and makes itself available to groups and organizations committed to educating and empowering African Americans to vote. Literature, materials and expertise are provided, and partnerships have been formed with every major organization in the African American community including churches, sororities, fraternities, civic organizations, social clubs, civil rights organizations, labor unions, and representatives of the homeless. The NAACP Web site outlines basic voters' rights, as well as measures to hold officials accountable for what they do about election reform. To this end, the program has developed a set of points on which local officials will be graded.

National Voice
National Voice is a coalition of non-profit and community groups working to maximize public participation in the democratic process. A key activity of National Voice is helping local groups incorporate voter education and registration activities into their work. With an electronic library of technical, legal, and organizing information, and an online clearinghouse of effective tools and strategies, National Voice seeks to make the voice of democracy heard. The ethnic and cultural constituencies targeted for outreach include African American groups, Asian Pacific Islander groups, Latino/Chicano groups, Native American groups, and youth.

People for the American Way (PFAW)
People for the American Way is one of the leaders of the Election Protection program. The group's site offers extensive information about the effort, including a list of the benefits the program can provide: immediate assistance at the polls, better training for election officials, immediate legal attention to potential voting rights and civil rights violations, and increased civic participation. The site also features headlines on voting issues in the news.

Rock the Vote
Rock the Vote is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization, founded in 1990, that engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its activities. From actors to musicians, comedians to athletes, Rock the Vote harnesses cutting-edge trends and pop culture to make political participation cool. Rock the Vote coordinates voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote events, and voter education efforts, all with the intention of ensuring that young people take advantage of their right to vote. Rock the Vote's Web site offers a timeline of the organization's history, free downloads, and information on how to join street teams, as well as a user-friendly voter registration feature.

Unity '04
Unity ‘04 Civic Engagement and Voter Empowerment Campaign is a nonpartisan network of 130 organizations that are united to increase the Black vote in the 2004 election cycle and build a groundswell of civic participation in the Black community. Created in 1998, the Unity campaign strategy works with and through African American based organizations and strategic partners to maximize the effectiveness of a coordinated campaign in selected states. The site provides a calendar of voter empowerment activities.

U.S. Civil Rights Commission
In addition to numerous other responsibilities regarding equal protection under law, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission investigates allegations that citizens are being deprived of their right to vote by reason of their race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or by reason of fraudulent practices. The Commission maintains state advisory committees, and consults with representatives of federal, state, and local governments, and private organizations, referring the many complaints it receives to the appropriate federal, state, or local government agency or private organization for action. Among the key features on the site is April 2004 report, "Is America Ready to Vote? Election Readiness Briefing Paper."

Verified Voting
The main organizers of the "Computer Ate My Vote" rally, the nonprofit organization Verified Voting advocates the use of voter-verified paper ballots (VVPBs) for all elections in the United States so voters can inspect individual permanent records of their ballots before they are cast and so meaningful recounts may be conducted. Verified Voting advocates for electronic voting equipment and software to be open to public scrutiny and for random, surprise recounts to be conducted on a regular basis to audit election equipment. The site explains policy issues, describes litigation on the verified voting issue, and makes available resources for taking action.

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