Election Protection in Full Swing in Pennsylvania
PRNews Wire 22 April 2008
More Than 500 Callers So Far Cite Scattered Problems Throughout the State
PHILADELPHIA, April 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ThePhiladelphia-based Committee of Seventy and the renowned national Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, together with an extensive coalition of partners throughoutPennsylvania, are responding to voting problems throughout the state through a comprehensive voter protection program. Nearly 1,000 non-partisan citizen and legal volunteers are monitoring polling places throughoutPennsylvania. Approximately 800 volunteers are working inPhiladelphia. Voters are reporting issues by way of the coalition hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) and through hundreds of field volunteers throughout the state.
"Our coalition has been working since the polls opened this morning to ensure the integrity of the vote inPennsylvania, and to be sure the process is conducted fairly," said John E. McKeever, Esquire, a partner at law firm DLA Piper, who serves on the Boards of Directors of both the Lawyers' Committee and the Committee of Seventy. "Pooling our respective resources and strengths for this crucial primary is helping to ensure that all eligible citizens have an equal opportunity to exercise the most fundamental of all rights the right to vote."
Zach Stalberg, Seventy's President and CEO, said "The Committee of Seventy has over 100 years' experience protecting voters' rights inPennsylvania. We are working with our coalition partners, and 800 volunteers statewide, to ensure this process goes smoothly."
The most commonly reported problem so far today, accounting for approximately 30% of call volume on the hotline, has been equipment malfunction at the polls. There have also been reports of voter intimidation, rule violations at polling places and registration issues. Some sample reports include:
One volunteer called in to report that one of the voting machines does
not seem to be recording votes properly: the count is off by three
In one precinct, voting equipment was not working and had not been
working for over two hours. This problem had been reported throughout
Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania and has the potential to
disenfranchise thousands of voters by the time the polls close.
One caller was confused by a fake ballot at polling location. Election
Protection sent a legal team which was able to clear up the confusion -
the ballot was being used as an "electioneering" tactic to
confuse the voter. The person distributing the fake ballots was told to
remain the appropriate distance from the polling place.
One visually impaired caller reported that poll workers would initially
not allow her husband to assist her in completing her ballot.
Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections of the Lawyers' Committee's Voting Rights Project said, "Through the toll-free 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline, voters receive immediate assistance to help them cast a ballot and when our trained volunteers cannot help them, they are immediately connected to the partnership's unparalleled field program where volunteers work with voters, election officials and poll workers to make sure the voter casts a meaningful ballot."
According to the Commonwealth's Department of State, three are 8,320,083 registered voters inPennsylvania. InPhiladelphia, which has just over one million voters, the City Commissioners' Office reports that nearly 114,000 individuals registered to vote between October 27, 2007 and March 24, 2008, the last date to register before the primary. The rise in the City's voter registrations is attributed to the intensity of the national Democratic primary and several local contests. Seventy has already announced plans for unprecedented oversight of high-profile and contentious primary races within the City's First Senatorial District and the 179th and 184th House Districts.
Both Stalberg and Goldman expressed hope that the primary would be both smooth and fair. "Our goal is to make sure that everyone who can vote, and wants to vote, is able to do so," said Stalberg. "If that happens, all the volunteer recruitment and training, and Election Day planning, will have been well worth the effort."
The Election Protection coalition is the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection.Pennsylvania partners include The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Committee of Seventy; Common Cause; People for the American Way Foundation; Avencia; Congresso de Latino Unidos; Dechert LLP; DLA Piper; Drexel University; Greater Philadelphia Cares; KPMG International; League of Women Voters ofPhiladelphia;Morgan, Lewis & Bocklus; Philadelphia AFL-CIO; Special People in N.E.; Temple University; University of Pennsylvania Law School; and The Daily News and White & Williams LLP.
The Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan organization conducting a permanent campaign to improve thePhiladelphia region by demanding ethical conduct of public officials, safeguarding elections, promoting government efficiency and educating citizens. Information on Seventy's Election Day program for the April 22nd primary is available on www.seventy.org.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of housing, community development, employment; voting; education and environmental justice. For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.
SOURCE Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law