LatinoJustice PRLDEF Calls on DOJ to Deploy Monitors to Protect the Latino Vote

October 9, 2008
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7581

LatinoJustice PRLDEF called on the U.S. Attorney General today to deploy federal monitors to protect Latinos voters from being denied their right to vote. During the past year, LatinoJustice election monitors witnessed various efforts to intimidate Latino voters and suppress their efforts to participate in this historic election.

With Latino voters playing a crucial role in this year’s election, Latinos have been targeted for voter intimidation and suppression efforts. The recent passage of stringent voting requirements by several states will undoubtedly disproportionably disenfranchise many Latinos, who have registered in record numbers. Unjustified delays in processing voter registration applications has also added to this disenfranchisement.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF informed the Department of Justice on Wednesday of its intention to pursue all legal efforts to ensure that Latinos are given a fair chance to vote. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has assembled a multi-state cadre of lawyers and law firms who will be available to bring challenges to efforts to suppress the Latino vote.

“We ourselves are prepared to document violations of the voting rights of Latino voters and bring lawsuits against those states and localities that fail to ensure the protections offered by the Voting Rights Act,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “We are asking the Attorney General to take all necessary steps to ensure that Latinos are free to vote without fear of intimidation, harassment or any form of discrimination.”

LatinoJustice PRLDEF is working with community-based voter protection groups as well as volunteer lawyers and firms who will be on the ground in several states on Nov. 4 monitoring the election. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has asked the Department of Justice to appoint a special monitor to gather reports of Latino voting suppression and intimidation efforts.

Examples of voter suppression efforts directly impacting Latinos are:

  • “No match, no vote” laws: Under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), states were required to centralize all their voter lists into one. Some states will strike voter names from the final list if there are any mismatches or name conflicts without notice which could keep thousands of voters from being able to cast their vote, even though social security and driver license numbers in large government databases are ridden with typos and clerical errors. These laws disproportionately impact Latinos as the likelihood of mismatches increases given their use of both last names.
  • Violations of Sections 4e and 203 of the Voting Rights Act: Sections 4e and 203 were passed to protect the right to vote for persons for whom English is not their primary language by requiring language appropriate election materials and personnel to language minorities. Many election districts will not have necessary Spanish-language materials nor the appropriate number of Spanish-speaking poll workers to comply with the Voting Rights Act. An empirical study confirmed our suspicions that “significant non-compliance with Section 203 provisions” is widespread. It found that only 33% of the 63 Section 203-covered counties surveyed could offer, upon request, registration materials in Spanish and 20% did not have Spanish-speaking personnel on staff for non-English speaking registrants. Other studies find that Section 203 coverage has a significant effect on registration and voting rates of language minorities residing in those counties. LatinoJustice PRLDEF is actively investigating potential Section 4e and 203 violations.
  • Use of home foreclosure listings to challenge voters and to empty voting rolls: Newspapers have reported that high level state party operatives are working to thwart the votes of citizens caught up in foreclosures, many of whom are Latino and Black voters. Two states with the largest reported foreclosure rates are Florida and Nevada – both of which have very large numbers of Latinos. Michigan recently announced that it would not allow these people to vote.
  • Delays in processing voter registration applications: Delays by the state or local boards of elections to complete voter registration for new voters deprives them of their vote. This voter suppression effort disproportionately affects Latinos, as many are new voters.

“The DOJ has not committed the additional resources necessary to combat these tactics,” said Jose Perez, LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Associate General Counsel. “The DOJ must make it a priority to ensure that Latinos are free to vote without the fear of intimidation, discrimination and harassment.”

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, National Campaign for Fair Elections, NALEO and the Hispanic National Bar Association, have organized a Spanish-language voter protection hotline on Nov. 4 that will field calls from a number of states.

The election protection partners will use NALEO’s bilingual hotline, 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA. The New York City multi-state Spanish language hotline center will be hosted by the law firm of White & Case LLP. In addition to receiving voter questions directly, the organizations will also be working with Mobile Legal Volunteers ("MLVs") who will be monitoring polling places, responding to incidents reported through the hotline and assisting voters at the polls.

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