Students Volunteer to Make Sure Every Vote Counts

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Dear Journalist:

In the coming high stakes presidential election, shouldn’t every vote count?

On Election Day – November 2 -tens of thousands of volunteers including clergy, law students, librarians and concerned citizens will fan out – to defend democracy and call on the law to ensure that no eligible voter is turned away at the polls.

Brought together by Working Assets to support the work of People For the American Way Foundation and the nonpartisan 2004 Election Protection coalition, including organizations such as Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, NAACP National Voter Fund, and La Raza – was created to identify volunteers who will monitor polls in key states on Election Day. Sporting black and white t-shirts saying “YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE,” cell phones and a Voter’s Bill of Rights, they’ll be on hand at polling places to prevent voters from being turned away or intimidated.

Poll watching conjures up developing countries like Haiti or new democracies like Afghanistan. Why in the United States? For good reason:

* It has come to light that since 2000, in Florida, state officials may have violated federal laws by knowingly approving a “potential felon” purge list that disproportionately blocked African-American voters.

* In 2003 in Philadelphia, voters in African-American neighborhoods were confronted by men with clipboards, driving cars with magnetic signs that looked like law enforcement insignia. But these men were not officials of any kind.

* A government report found that in 2000, some bilingual poll workers in Florida were directed not to provide language assistance to Spanish-speaking voters, even when such assistance was mandated by law. (

* Just this June in South Dakota, Native American voters were sent to the wrong polling places, and given misleading information about the ID they need to vote.

In the last presidential election, over four million votes were never counted. Minorities were illegally disqualified, intimidated and harassed at the polls. This year, Election Protection will prevent history from repeating itself.

According to Michael Kieschnick, Working Assets President, who is flying to Arizona to be a poll monitor on Election Day, “My civic duty on November 2nd is to make sure the democratic process of voting is upheld.”

Before Election Day, volunteers will make house calls and go out into target communities to inform voters of their rights and distribute their state’s Voter’s Bill of Rights. On Election Day, tens of thousands of volunteers will be stationed outside polling places to answer questions and assist voters who experience difficulties or harassment at the polls. Poll watchers will have access to immediate legal assistance via the 866-OUR VOTE hotline.

Election Protection will be there to make sure every vote is cast and counted. To date, five thousand have come forward, from over 40 different states. On a single day in San Francisco, 600 people completed poll monitor training and plan to travel to key states from Arizona to Florida for Election Day. Please help us spread the word and guarantee that every vote counts. To volunteer, or find out more, go to To interview someone from the Election Protection coalition or with a volunteer, please contact 212-245-0510.

Jené O’Keefe212-245-0510 – office504-914-3791 – cell212-245-1889 – fax