Connecting the Dots on Voter Registration and Turn Out

Millions Blocked from Voting in Election
by Alan Elsner, Reuters
Wednesday 22 September 2004
Millions of U.S. citizens, including a disproportionate number of black voters, will be blocked from voting in the Nov. 2 presidential election because of legal barriers, faulty procedures or dirty tricks, according to civil rights and legal experts…
Ohio Secretary of State Blocks New Voter Registrations
By Jim Bebbington and Laura Bischoff
Dayton Daily News
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Voters-rights advocates are criticizing two recent decisions by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that they say will unfairly limit some people’s ability to vote Nov. 2…
Still Seeking a Fair Florida Vote
By Jimmy Carter
Washington Post
Monday 27 September 2004
After the debacle in Florida four years ago, former president Gerald Ford and I were asked to lead a blue-ribbon commission to recommend changes in the American electoral process. After months of concerted effort by a dedicated and bipartisan group of experts, we presented unanimous recommendations to the president and Congress. The government responded with the Help America Vote Act of October 2002. Unfortunately, however, many of the act’s key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes. The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely…
Protect the Vote
by Bob Herbert, New York Times 
Thursday 09 September 2004
More than 80 percent of the population of Detroit is black. This is very well understood by John Pappageorge, who is white and a Republican state legislator in Michigan. “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote,” said Mr. Pappageorge, “we’re going to have a tough time in this election.”

Fear Of Fraud
By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times
Tuesday 27 July 2004
It’s election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger’s campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software….
League of Women Voters warns Michiganians against voter registration scam
Associated Press
Friday 01 October 2004
Voter Registration Volunteers Win Lawsuit Against VA
Metro Active News (San Jose, California)
Wednesday 25 August 2004
Senator Backs Voting Rights After Witnessing Computer Voting Machine Failure
by Stephen Manning, Associated Press
Monday 13 September 2004
Editorial: Voting flaps / Public scrutiny is essential
Star Tribune
Monday 4 October 2004
Maximum public scrutiny.  Those three words were offered up last week by former President Jimmy Carter as “perhaps the only recourse” for pressing the state of Florida on the fairness of its voting process at this late stage in the presidential election. In just the week since he wrote them, worrisome processes and practices have popped up with such frequency that these three words of advice bear repeating over and over, all over the country, during the run-up to Nov. 2.
Carter wrote in the context of having co-led, with former President Gerald Ford, a blue-ribbon commission asked to recommend changes in America’s electoral process after the 2000 election. He also wrote as an election observer whose Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections around the world — all of them, as he points out, “held under contentious, troubled or dangerous conditions.”
In a piece published by the Washington Post last Monday, Carter said that he is often asked why he doesn’t monitor the election in Florida this year, given what happened in 2000. To which he answered that “some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida,” and discussed signs that Florida lacks 1) a trusted, nonpartisan official in charge of conducting the voting process and 2) uniformity in voting procedures.
Alone, that’s not a good sign. However, his article and observations didn’t stand alone last week. Carter’s piece came out, for example, as Ohio’s secretary of state came under fire for a directive stating that voter-registration forms must be printed on “white, uncoated paper of not less than 80-pound text weight,” a position from which he was forced to retreat on Tuesday. Thousands upon thousands had registered using lighter-weight paper.
On Wednesday, two days after Carter’s article, a front-page New York Times story detailed hurdles faced by overseas Americans who want to vote in the election, stating in its lead paragraph that “millions of civilians and soldiers living abroad still face a bewildering and unwieldy system of absentee balloting that could prevent their votes from being counted.” The story described tardy ballots, denial of access to Web sites, concerns over faxes being unsecret ballots, unclear rules and methods, and so on.
Meanwhile, right here in Minnesota, registration-drive volunteers complained they’d found Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer’s office short of registration cards, and Kiffmeyer found herself before the Senate Elections Committee on Thursday defending both her supply of cards and a new voter registration system that has been the subject of county officials’ complaints.
How all this — and who knows what else, elsewhere — will affect the vote tallies come November is unknowable. But it seems clear that the maximum public scrutiny Carter suggests will indeed be critical to ensuring sound election processes.
America tends to view itself as unparalleled in its defense and practice of democracy. And yet this year a 20-person election monitoring team, from 14 different countries, will be viewing our processes.
To cite just one of them, Brigalia Bam, the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, arrived in the United States this month with the group of international monitors to view U.S. elections. “Our experience in dozens of countries around the world has shown that the presence of nonpartisan, nongovernmental observers from other countries can help ensure fair and transparent elections and build trust in democratic processes,” she said.
“Through sharing with Americans the democratic innovations and advances occurring around the world, we hope to bring to light the best practices that may benefit the U.S. political system.”
Reading about the arrival of her team is a startling experience indeed. For years, Americans have read stories of Jimmy Carter leaving for this or that country to observe elections for fairness. Now elections experts are monitoring here.

Erik K. Gustafson, Executive Director

EPIC | Education for Peace in Iraq Center

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tel. 202.543.6176 | fax 202.543.0725

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