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Special E-Update: October 25, 2004

Iowa Protecting Voters in Response to NVRI Advocacy

In a victory for full enfranchisement, the Iowa Attorney General issued two opinions last week reversing restrictive voter registration and ballot-counting policies that NVRI had urged Iowa officials to change. On October 20th, the Attorney General agreed to accept and process mail-in voter registration applications from persons who inadvertently failed to check a box on the form regarding U.S. citizenship, as long as the voter signed the affirmation elsewhere on the form attesting that the applicant is a U.S. citizen. Previously, Iowa was refusing to allow such registrants to vote in federal elections, even though their registrations were considered valid for state elections. The Iowa Attorney General opinion released on October 20th agreed with the analysis in a letter sent October 8 by NVRI, joined by the League of Women Voters, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the ACLU, which argued that requiring a "double affirmation" of citizenship posed an unnecessary obstacle to registration in violation of federal law.

On Friday, October 22, the Iowa Attorney General issued a second opinion on "provisional" balloting, an issue that is getting considerable attention in the run-up to the election, with lawsuits pending in Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and Florida. As NVRI and its allies had urged in our October 8th letter, Attorney General Tom Miller said that Iowans who vote in the correct county but wrong precinct should have their votes for president and Congress count. Rejecting those ballots could unlawfully disenfranchise hundreds, if not thousands of voters, given that many precinct lines have been redrawn since the last presidential election, and voters' polling places may have changed even if they have not moved. To read the Des Moines register article, click here. For the Attorney General's opinions, click here. And to see NVRI's initial letter to Iowa, click here. Many thanks also to the law firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, and its legal team of Anthony West, Emmalena Quesada, Yoshi Inoue, and Karen Mercier, which assisted NVRI in preparing for possible litigation over these issues - litigation that became unnecessary in the wake of the Iowa Attorney General's opinions.

NVRI is staying involved with election protection efforts, and will be on alert on November 2 and beyond.

In a late breaking development, five lawyers for the Iowa Republican Party on Monday afternoon filed suit challenging the Attorney General's decision. NVRI will stay involved with the case both short-term and long-term.


Bi-Partisan Group of Senators and Former Senators, Together with State Attorneys General, Secretaries of State, & Others, Join NVRI in Seeking Supreme Court Reconsideration of Spending Limits

Former Senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson, sitting Senators Fritz Hollings, Ted Stevens, Robert Byrd, John Reed, Chris Dodd, Diane Feinstein, Charles Schumer and Arlen Specter, numerous state Attorneys General, numerous state Secretaries of State, state judges, and campaign finance organizations were among those expected today to file briefs in the Supreme Court today, joining NVRI in asking the Court to revisit its 1976 decision on campaign spending limits. Since the Court ruled in 1976 that congressional spending limits enacted after Watergate were unconstitutional, campaign spending has increased ten-fold, and the hold on elections by the most wealthy has only increased. The many groups and distinguished individuals asking for review in Homans v. City of Albuquerque believe that spending limits can help make politics and campaigns available to all Americans, not just the few. The briefs will be posted on the NVRI website in the next few weeks.


Where to Vote

Where's your polling place? The People for the American Way Foundation has provided an invaluable service with their guide to polling places across the country. Find out where to vote, what kind of voting machine will be used, map and driving directions, a short list of voters' rights, and step-by-step instruction for the exact voting equipment at the polling place by visiting


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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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