Coalition Poll Monitors and Lawyers Assist Voters
Despite scattered reports of problems, as of 6:15 p.m. today, Florida’s primary is going fairly smoothly, as was expected. The Election Protection Coalition’s 60-precinct trial run delivered excellent results, with numerous reports from voters, and strong participation by volunteer canvassers, poll monitors, lawyers and law students offering assistance and advice, said Ralph G. Neas, President of the People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF).
Over the past several days, more than 350 people, including at least 75 lawyers and law students, have participated in Election Protection activities. Calls to the Election Protection Hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, came in at about 40 per hour on Election Day, and some 400 calls were received the day before the election from voters asking for information and assistance.
Neas said the results support the coalition’s plans to mobilize 25,000 volunteers in 3,500 predominantly African-American and Latino precincts in at least 16 additional states around the country in November.
“Not unexpectedly for a primary, there have been few controversies at the Florida polls – and in this case, little news is good news. But history demonstrates that the overwhelming potential for widespread voter disenfranchisement and problems at the polls occurs during the general elections in November,” said Neas. “This was a splendid opportunity to test our operations in preparation for the far greater challenge in November.”
Coalition members active in the Florida primary included PFAWF, the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights; the NAACP; the Voter Protection Project of America’s Families United, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the AFL-CIO, Mi Familia Vota, the Advancement Project, the ACLU, AFSCME and the League of Women Voters.
Among the problems reported to the Hotline and observed by Election Protection workers at the polls were:
- Reports of a potentially intimidating police presence near heavily African-American precinct polling places in Jacksonville.
- Poll workers demanding identification from voters at several polling sites in an overly aggressive manner, and not informing voters without ID of their right to sign an affidavit and cast a vote.
- A few instances of polling places not opening on time.
- The failure of several optical scan readers in Volusia County.
- Voters who were unsure that the electronic machine had correctly recorded their vote, and absent a paper trail, could not be sure.
- Confusing signage, or no signage directing voters at polling sites.
- Various problems with voting machines, registration status, absentee ballots, names missing from voter rolls, registration cards that had not been delivered, and other issues experienced by individual voters.