NM Know Your Rights/Election Protection program

Coalition to Work With Election Officials; Protect, Educate & Assist Voters

Albuquerque: With exactly six months to go before Election Day 2004, the Voices of the Electorate (V.O.T.E.) national coalition is launching the nationwide, nonpartisan Know Your Rights/Election Protection program in New Mexico, starting with the distribution of the New Mexico “Voter’s Bill of Rights” in Spanish and English.

The program provides voter information and assistance, expert legal help and poll monitors to help voters understand their rights, assist voters when problems arise, and look for attempts at voter intimidation and suppression. Election Protection targets historically disenfranchised communities, including Hispanic, African-American and low-income communities with education and advice.

“Voter registration drives will bring unprecedented numbers of new voters to the polls. We welcome the efforts of the nonpartisan V.O.T.E coalition to assist voters in this key election,” said Ernest Ortega, spokesperson for New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron.

New Mexico has approximately 1.2 million residents of voting age, including young voters, minority voters, non-English speaking voters and disabled voters. Election Protection will be working from now until Election Day to make sure that every vote counts. On Election Day, a toll-free number (1-866-OUR-VOTE) will be staffed to provide voters with free legal help if they have questions about voting, such as where or when to vote or what a state’s voter ID and provisional ballot procedures are, or if they encounter problems at their polling places.

“The election fiasco in Florida four years ago showed us that we must be vigilant. We stand ready to assist New Mexico officials and New Mexico voters so that every vote counts,” said Guillermo Nicacio, senior organizer for People For the American Way Foundation.

Today’s launch in New Mexico was one of four around the country. The V.O.T.E coalition also launched the voter protection and assistance program in Ohio, Florida and Georgia. Coalition members plan to provide voter information materials in at least 30 states this election year.

“The stakes could not be higher. We must restore faith in our democratic system, bring voters to the polls, and make sure every vote is counted, “said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “There are six months remaining to prevent another Election Day debacle. The countdown starts now.”

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