National Voting Rights Institute
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NVRI E-Update: October 2004
Notes from Stuart Comstock-Gay, Executive Director


Here's our latest update.

With only 18 days left before the election, shenanigans abound. NVRI has been working with many allies to ensure that votes will be counted, registration forms processed, and a fair election held. Here are some of the critical things occurring.

  1. NVRI Asks Iowa to Count The Votes
  2. Protecting The Vote Everywhere
  3. More Public Funding

1.  NVRI Asks Iowa to Count The Votes

On October 8, NVRI sent a letter with a number of local and national groups, asking the state to fix immediately two problems that could disenfranchise thousands of Iowa voters on November 2. In the first instance, Iowa threatened to disqualify new voter registration forms where voters in inadvertantly did not check off a box stating they are American citizens, even though elsewhere on the document, the same registrants signed an oath that they were indeed Amerian citizens. The confusing form has been causing problems for many. We are waiting the Attorney General's decision. And in a repeat of a problem occuring throughout the country, NVRI has asked Iowa to count provisional ballots. These are ballots submitted by people whose name cannot be found on the formal list of voters. The notion behind proivisional ballots is that citizens cast the provisional ballots while efforts are made to determine if the person inadvertantly went to the wrong precinct. But many states have said they will not count the ballots at all. Provisional ballot lawsuits have been filed in numerous other states, including Ohio, Michigan, and Florida. We also await Iowa's decision on this. The coalition working on the Iowa problems includes NVRI, the League of Women Voters, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and ACLU. To read the letter, click here. NVRI is prepared to file suit if an appropriate answer is not forthcoming.

For more on the provisional balloting problem, check the great materials from Demos.


2.  Protecting The Vote Everywhere

NVRI is working with an election protection coalition assisting with legal advice in a variety of states beyond Iowa. NVRI has been looking at and consulting on problems in Ohio, Florida and Maine among others. NVRI may end up in other last-minute suits to protect voters rights in these or other jurisdictions. Many organizations are involved with this. For a really cool on the ground approach to this effort, check ACLU's voter empowerment cards.


3.  More Public Funding

NVRI is eagerly watching the vote in Berkeley, California, where the city has placed on the ballot an initiative to provide public funding for city elections. NVRI consulted with the city to create a measure that is constitutional, and meaningful public funding. What they've done is great. Measure H, if passed, would institute a system of Public Financing of Campaigns in the city of Berkeley. In doing so, it would cap costs and ensure that elections are not won on the basis of which candidate is able to raise the most money. Paul Turner, Director of the Greenlining Institute Claiming Our Democracy Program, said, "We need to end the modern-day poll tax and restore our elections so that votes count more than money. Measure H will increase diversity by allowing qualified Berkeley residents to run for office, without having enormous personal wealth or access to wealthy friends." Couldn't have said it better myself.


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Stuart Comstock-Gay
Executive Director
National Voting Rights Institute
[email protected]

National Voting Rights Institute, 27 School Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02108
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