Statement from Eric Marshall and Marcia Johnson-Blanco,
Leaders of Election Protection
-- November 6, 2012, 11:00pm --
“The 2012 election cycle was like no other in generations. The number one difference was the nefarious effort to suppress the vote through restrictive legislation making it more difficult for eligible voters to cast their ballots. While the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and many of our Coalition partners have helped to successfully challenge these new laws in the courts preceding Election Day, the results of these unsuccessful attempts to restrict voting led to much chaos and confusion at the polls. Today alone, the Election Protection hotline received more than 88,600calls.
“In Pennsylvania, in particular, the commonwealth’s effort to inform their citizens and election officials that their voter ID law was struck down was wholly inadequate. The state shirked its responsibility to properly educate voters and poll workers about the ID requirements which led to reports of voters incorrectly being required to show ID across the state.
“In several states where there have been problems in the past – problems that included long lines, broken machine, registration errors and uniformed poll workers – officials did not rectify the situation. And, history repeated itself. In fact, in some states – such as Florida and Ohio – politicians actually restricted early voting which exacerbated past problems and created new ones.
“While the devastating hurricane could not have been predicted, its effect on voters in New Jersey and New York could have been minimized if those states permitted early voting.
“Yet despite these enormous challenges, the determination of voters to cast their ballots has been heroic. From voters in New York City who voted without heat and in the dark, to voters in South Carolina waited in line for more than six hours because of broken voting machines, the perseverance of these Americans has been inspiring.
“The Election Protection Coalition’s network of 5,000 volunteer lawyers and 2,000 grassroots monitors have worked tirelessly to answer voters’ questions and solve problems leading up to the election and today. Undeterred by the challenges posed by the storm in their own lives, more than 1,000 volunteer lawyers helped voters in New York and New Jersey throughout the day.
“The Election Protection volunteers have helped so many Americans vote. For example:
- In FL, computers and phones in Hillsborough County were down for an extended time on Election Day. Poll workers, unable to verify voting information, directed voters to incorrect precincts, where they were then forced to vote provisionally. Election Protection volunteers outside of polling places worked with the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office to verify that Floridians were in the correct location.
- In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Election Protection volunteers were stationed at the Board of Elections. Upon hearing of reports of ballot scanners not working properly, volunteers were able to bring it to the attention of election officials immediately so that they were able to resolve the problem promptly.
- Last week the New York City Board of Elections told our legal leadership that they had a significant shortage of poll workers. Not only did our New York Election Protection leaders enlist some of their field volunteers to serve as poll workers, but they were also able to put out a call from the New York State Bar Association urging its members to serve as well.
“Today’s events prove that our system of elections is in need of repair. Instead of continuing to treat the right to vote as a partisan football, as some politicians have chosen to do, state and federal legislators should come together in a bipartisan fashion to solve the real problems with our election infrastructure. As the leading democracy of the world, our voting system should be free, fair and accessible to all eligible Americans.
“Starting tomorrow, elected officials should pass reforms that tackle real problems in our election system, such as cumbersome and antiquated voter registration systems and deceptive voting practices. Specifically the government should automatically register voters using 21st Century technology and eliminating paper form the system. Voters’ registrations should be permanent, moving when they move just like their ATM card.
“States need to invest more in their elections and they need to learn from the past and prepare for the future. Our hope is that in 2016, the Election Protection program will no longer be necessary because all eligible voters will be able to exercise their right free of obstacles.”