In elections

[The simplest and — we would hope! — most nonpartisan issue in the coming elections is whether voters who are entitled to vote will be allowed to, and whether votes legitimately cast will be counted. As the title of this report suggests, this is also among the simplest of religious issues. I hope our readers will be vigilant for the sake of honesty in working to prevent or cure any disease of vote-thievery that emerges this fall. I hope this report, from the AFL-CIO, will be of use to you.  – AW]

In four weeks, millions of  voters will go to the polls to choose our next president, Congress and state and local officials. But even if you are eligible to vote, you could be denied a ballot, illegally purged from the voting rolls or face challenges to your voting status.

To ensure that every eligible voter can vote and have their vote counted, union members and activists are working through the AFL-CIO My Vote, My Right

voter protection project to ensure the ballot process is run fairly.  The National Campaign for Fair Elections launched and spotlighted a toll-free voting rights hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, operated by a nonpartisan coalition of groups, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the AFL-CIO. )

A new report released by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law finds that states are secretly purging roles with no supervision or national standards. As a result, the cleaning up of voter rolls is not as precise as it should be and eligible voters are often wrongly removed.

The report calls the nationwide purging process “chaotic,” “shrouded in secrecy,” “riddled with inaccuracies,” “prone to error” and “vulnerable to manipulation.”

The report uncovers widespread errors in voter purges, including the purges of 700 voters in Muscogee County, Ga., 10,000 voters in Mississippi and 7,000 in Louisiana. Read or download the report, Voter Purges, here.

It cites Muscogee County, where a county official removed 700 people from voter rolls allegedly for criminal convictions. But many of the people who received letters informing them of the purge had never even received a parking ticket. In Mississippi, a local election official recently discovered that another official had wrongly purged 10,000 voters “from her home computer.”

In another report, the public interest group USPIRG shows 19 states are ignoring federal law, which prohibits voter purges 90 days before a federal election. Those states include the key battleground states of Colorado, Ohio and Nevada.

Some state officials are using various techniques to try and suppress the vote. A new website,, recently learned about “caging” plan for parts of  Florida. Caging is a process in which letters are sent to registered voters and when the letter is returned, the voter’s name is taken off the rolls.

The plan was to send letters to voters in majority black districts, including soldiers at an army base in the black community in Jacksonville. Of course, many of the soldiers might not be on base anymore, points out Steal Back Your Vote founder Greg Palast. He has teamed up with Robert Kennedy Jr. to put together a comic book guide for voters to take your vote back. Check out their video here

In Ohio, the AFL-CIO and SEIU District 1199 filed briefs in a successful effort to stop state officials from suppressing student voting. Officials in the Buckeye State challenged Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s ruling that a state law allows some early voters to register and vote on the same day. A recently enacted state law allows residents, for the first time in a general presidential election, to vote early by absentee ballot without providing a justification. But with a huge voter registration effort to get college students, some officials sought to nullify the law. The state Supreme Court and the federal courts upheld Brunner’s interpretation of the law.

In New Mexico, the AFL-CIO My Vote My Rights program has teamed with the Lawyers Coordinating Committee to convince the secretary of state to distribute a poster that lists the types of IDs that are acceptable and is placed in polling places. Voters can advocate for themselves if asked for more than the IDs mandated by law. The AFL-CIO also was instrumental in bringing to the attention of state attorneys general that voters cannot be removed from the rolls for being on a foreclosure list. As a result of our efforts, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler sent a letter to local and state election officials to ensure that voters who have lost homes to foreclosure know they have not lost their right to vote. Lots more voter protection news

Daily Kos’s Mcjoan reports that some Montana officials are tchallenging the eligibility of 6,000 registered Montana voters in seven counties historically considered Democratic. More than half of the people challenged statewide live, or previously lived, in Missoula County. Montanans who are registered to vote in the seven counties who filled out a change-of-address card with the U.S. Postal Service in the past 18 months likely will need to verify their correct place of residence before the Nov. 4 election. More than 36,000 new voters have registered in Montana.

Andrew Appel reports that a New Jersey state judge has stopped the scheduled release of a report on the security and accuracy of the Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machine used in the state. Appel blogs on Freedom to Tinker, which is hosted by the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. He is one of a team of experts the court designated to report on the voting machines. The report is part of a lawsuit by  filed by the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic. The Sequoia model used in the state cannot be audited and do not produce a voter verified paper ballot trail, so there is no way to know whether the machine is actually counting votes as cast,. Appel says.

Markos at Daily Kos notes that three weeks after Florida began enforcing a controversial law to require tougher ID matches for would-be voters, registration applications from more than 5,000 Floridians have been held up, at least temporarily. In many cases, officials said, the errors were as simple as someone writing down the wrong number, using a nickname or misspelling his or her name. As Kos points out it’s more likely that the government has misspelled the name in their own databases.

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