New York, NY — Today Demos, a leading, national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting democracy, voiced its strong support for rulings by U.S. District Judges Susan Dlott and John Adams barring all voter "challengers" from Ohio voting places.
Judge Adams found that, "the court cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the substantial likelihood that significant harm will result, not only to voters, but also to the voting process itself, if appointed challengers are permitted to the polls." Judge Dlott found that to allow challengers at Ohio polling places would be unconstitutional, and that the evidence "does not indicate the presence of additional challengers would serve Ohio's interest in preventing voter fraud better than would the system of election judges . . .." Under Ohio law, polling places have four election judges present — typically two Republicans and two Democrats - at each precinct.
Miles Rapoport, President of Demos, said, "The rulings by Judge Adams and Judge Dlott are outstanding. They uphold the fundamental tenets of our democracy and protect the core civil rights of voters. Moreover, they get to the heart of concerns that minority voters in Ohio have been raising for months. For the government to permit any party to target specific populations for challenges at the polls — by challengers with no experience in elections — would be to rob those targeted of their Constitutional right to equal protection under law. It would place their civil rights and voting rights in jeopardy."
The Cincinnati Post recently obtained copies of a Republican training manual showing that the party intended to use challengers to target lists of voters in heavily minority, Democratic precincts throughout Ohio. Rapoport observed, "Democracy is supposed to promote participation, not suppress it. Actions intended to intimidate voters and suppress turnout would be a stain on the record of any party involved. The federal courts appear to be saving the Ohio GOP from its own worst instincts."
Rapoport added, "These recent court decisions are precisely what's needed to ensure that our democracy works the way it is supposed to. They help ensure that Ohio's voters will not be subject to intimidation and harassment when they go to the polls tomorrow. Now we need to make sure that all voters in other states across the country win similar protections."
For more information about challenges to the integrity of our elections in 2004, download the "Democracy at Risk" press briefing kit at www.demos.org.
Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action is a nonprofit, non-partisan public policy organization based in New York.