Civil Rights Commission Investigates Continuing Voter Disenfranchisement and Election Chaos in Florida

Neas Testifies on Efforts to Protect Voter Rights in Florida and Nationwide

Washington - People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) president Ralph G. Neas Thursday testified on the continuing disarray in preparation for the elections in Florida, and detailed a nationwide, nonpartisan coalition program to help protect voter rights: Election Protection.

“Three years after the 2000 election debacle in Florida and just four months before the 2004 elections, chaos and confusion still reign in that state. Once again, we see the spectacle of a flawed voter purge list, untested voting machines, and a widespread lack of voter confidence – and the problems are not limited to Florida,” Neas told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “Sadly, public confidence in our system of elections was shaken to the core during the 2000 elections and has yet to be fully restored. There is only one way to restore that confidence. We can’t let it happen again. We must do everything we can as a government and a free people to ensure that in this election, every voter has a chance to cast a vote that will be counted. Our contribution is the Election Protection program.”

Neas laid out the elements of the nonpartisan Election Protection program, which will provide free legal advice and assistance to voters from now until Election Day, and will deploy thousands of volunteer lawyers, law students, poll monitors and other volunteers to assist voters with every step of the process, from voter registration to casting a ballot. The program covers the gamut from assisting voters with simple questions of eligibility to filing lawsuits when voter rights are threatened.

Formed in the aftermath of the 2000 election debacle, Election Protection has been active in every election since, and will put forth by far its largest effort for the 2004 elections. The program is carried out by dozens of national and state civil rights organizations and affiliates and coalition partners at the local level. (A list of national coalition partners is attached.)

This year, in more than 30 states, Election Protection will educate voters about their rights and help them hold election officials accountable when those rights are violated. A toll-free voter assistance hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, will provide voters with free legal advice and assistance.

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