Saturday, September 20, 2008

Voter Protection in Pennsylvania

This weekend I'll be making calls to help recruit thousands of Pennsylvania lawyers and law students to be official poll watchers on Election Day.

Now, I hate the phone (I only have a cellphone, and I won't answer it). I hate talking to strangers. I'm not what anyone would describe, by the remotest stretch of the imagination, as a "people person." But I did this same calling outreach four years ago, and surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed it. It was inspiring to talk to small-town attorneys all over Ohio who were willing to close up their practices for the day and lose income in order to stand in a school gym for twelve or more hours protecting people's right to vote. I wound up having some really good conversations with these lawyers, and I came away feeling like I'd done something that mattered.

This year, it will more important than ever before to have legal volunteers at every single polling place, especially in swing states like Pennsylvania where Republicans are mounting aggressive efforts to disenfranchise, challenge, and intimidate likely Democratic voters.
  • In Michigan, Republican state party officials had planned to mail voters whose names appeared on a list of foreclosed homes obtained from the public records office. The idea was to compile a list of people who had been forced to move homes, but had yet to update their voter registration to their new address. Republican party workers stationed at polling stations would then challenge such voters when they turned up on election day.
  • Voting rights activists in Ohio and Missouri have reported attempts to use the housing crisis to try to disqualify voters.
  • In Ohio, the state Republican party filed a law suit seeking to block streamlined new regulations that make it easier for people to cast their ballot by early voting.
  • In Wisconsin, the state's Republican attorney general has gone to court to try to compel poll workers to match voters' names against driving license records.
  • Florida, which has a Republican governor, also moved last week to require poll workers to check voters' names against a government database.
  • The effort received a boost last April when the US supreme court ruled that states were entitled to require voters to present a state-issued photo ID such as a driving license at the polls. Civil rights organizations argued that the requirement discriminates against the poor and the elderly, who often do not have driving licenses because they cannot afford a car. More than 20 states now require voters to show ID at the polls, and there have been a series of recent reports about elderly people losing their right to vote.
Source: "Democrats ask court to defend right to vote", The Guardian 09/17/08

If you'd like to make some calls for Pennsylvania Voter Protection, contact:

Pennsylvania Voter Protection Team
Campaign for Change

They'll send you a call sheet, a script for your calls, and FAQs to help you answer any questions the lawyers and law students may ask.

Are you a lawyer, law student, or paralegal? You can sign up online to volunteer for voter protection on Election Day (in any state).

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