Restoring Faith in the Electoral Process
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation's oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, has a very strong interest in preventing the disenfranchisement of voters, and in ensuring that the 2004 elections are not marred by the same kind of chaos that contributed to the disastrous outcome in 2000.
Many of the reforms mandated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) are significant improvements that will help us reach our goals, if the new law is properly funded and its provisions are implemented in a fair manner. At the same time, the new types of voting technology called for by HAVA -- like every form of voting -- raise legitimate questions about ballot security that we must strive to address using the best technological means at our disposal.
As such, LCCR strongly urges states to ensure sound elections by taking the following steps:
- Modernize Voting Machines: It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million votes were not counted in the 2000 election because of the use of outdated technology such as lever machines and punch cards. States should act quickly to upgrade equipment, in time for the 2004 elections.
- Ensure Voting Machine Security: The modern voting machines that are being phased in under HAVA are far easier to use, more accessible for people with disabilities and language minorities, and less prone to ballot errors than older machines. But like any technology, they are not immune to malfunctions or security threats. States should use systems that allow voters to verify that their ballots were cast as intended. Although the technology to allow this to be done in a manner that meets existing laws and standards may not be in place by 2004, states should make funds available to meet such security requirements and plan to upgrade existing voting equipment.
- Prevent ID Discrimination: While HAVA includes a number of significant steps forward in making it easier for all Americans to vote, it also erects a new hurdle for many. It requires many citizens to present ID in order to prove they are eligible to vote. This will make it harder for minorities and the poor to vote, not only because such populations are less likely to have the forms of ID required, but also because the ID requirement is very conducive to discrimination. States must ensure that the requirement is implemented in a fair and nondiscriminatory fashion.
- Stop Unlawful Purging: The purging of lawfully registered voters from the voter rolls represents the clearest example of how the 2000 election, and previous elections, were affected: by the manipulation of voter lists. States must pay special attention to preventing unfair, incorrect, and last-minute purges.
In addition, President Bush and Congress deliver on their promise of election reform by taking the following steps:
- Provide Full Funding for HAVA Implementation: The amount of money authorized for election reform under HAVA is very limited, and only a fraction has been distributed. Full funding is crucial to ensure a wide range of reforms, including not just the elimination of outdated technology, but also the creation of statewide voter registration lists, education for voters and poll workers, and improved accessibility for people with disabilities. Congress must now deliver on the promise of election reform it made last year.
- Convene a National Roundtable on Voting Machine Security: The President and Congress should convene a national forum of experts in election technology and election reform implementation to analyze issues involving the security and reliability of computerized voting machines and determine an appropriate national course of action.
- Prevent Voter Intimidation: It has long been the experience of the civil rights community that overly aggressive "ballot integrity" efforts and voter misinformation tactics, purportedly aimed at reducing fraud, result in the intimidation of lawful voters and suppress voter turnout. This is especially true when investigations and prosecutions appear to concentrate efforts on or target voters of a particular racial, ethnic, disability, or other minority group. The Department of Justice must ensure that nobody is deterred from exercising their most important of all civil rights on election day.