Monday, November 1, 2010

Partisan Voter Challengers May Suppress Votes

Press Release:

Contact: Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney
Advancement Project


[ST. LOUIS, MO – Nov. 1, 2010] - In light of recent media reports of systemic vote suppression efforts in early vote sites around the country, and with reports of similar aggressive campaigns planned in Missouri on Election Day, Advancement Project, a leading voter protection organization, has appealed to local election officials to ensure that poll workers are trained in how to respond to challenges at the polls.

“We are deeply concerned about poll worker confusion in light of recent reports that partisan entities plan to conduct aggressive challenges to voters’ eligibility at the polls in St. Louis and St. Louis County during the November 2, 2010, General Elections,” said Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney and Missouri’s voter protection advocate with Advancement Project. “These aggressive operations create the risk of voter suppression and voter intimidation and are likely to have a disparate impact on minority voters.”

The letter advises election officials: “You have an obligation to ensure that voters are not intimidated, harassed, or thwarted from voting by untrained challengers or confused poll workers who fail to follow the requirements for challenges under Missouri law.”

“Election officials have the obligation to ensure that the promised presence of challengers engaged in aggressive challenging of voters’ eligibility does not create chaotic conditions, disenfranchise voters, or intimidate either voters or poll workers, who are required to allow eligible voters to cast a ballot even if challenged, upon verification of the voter’s eligibility. The fact that a voter’s eligibility has been challenged does not necessarily mean that she cannot vote a regular ballot,” Lieberman wrote to officials. A voter who is challenged must have her eligibility verified by the poll worker, but is entitled to vote a regular ballot if eligible. Voters whose eligibility cannot be immediately established are allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

Advancement Project has also prepared a summary of state laws related to challengers, watchers, intimidation and legal polling place activities that can be used to combat intimidation, challenges or other tactics that disrupt the voting process or discourage voting.

Voters who experience problems at the polls should call the toll-free non-partisan Election Protection Hotline at: 1-866-OURVOTE. Local Election Protection attorneys will be on hand to assist voters on Election Day.

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