News Release Archive - 2006

Confusion Threatens Voting Rights: Voters Warned to Defend Their Rights

Share

SPENCER OVERTON
A law professor at George Washington University, Overton was a commissioner on the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform. Author of the new book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression, Overton said today: “In the 2006 elections, mass confusion is the biggest threat to the right to vote. Much disenfranchisement will be de facto — rather than legal — disenfranchisement. Politicians have created a maze of 4600 different election systems — all with different rules and practices — and the confusion over the rules itself threatens to chill voter participation. Some Americans may be discouraged from voting because they mistakenly assume that they need a photo ID or that the lines will be 4 hours long. People who have had a brush with the law may stay home, even though in most states ex-felons can vote.

“Often, state election boards contribute to the confusion and misinformation. In Georgia, even after the court struck down the photo ID requirement, the state election board mailed out hundreds of thousands of letters indicating that voters needed photo ID to vote. The Florida election board’s website suggests that a photo ID is required to cast a vote, but doesn’t indicate that voters who don’t have a photo ID can cast a ballot. Confused voters and election workers without adequate training may be intimidated by new electronic voting machines. I want to encourage people to go to the polls and vote. Voters should not disenfranchise themselves by being intimidated by this confusion.”
More Information

WENDY WEISER
JUSTIN LEVITT
Weiser is deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where she runs a voting rights project. Levitt is associate counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center.

In an op-ed she co-wrote for the New York Times, published yesterday, Weiser stated: “On November 7, many voters will encounter new voting machines, new computerized voter lists and new rules regarding registration and ID requirements. As primaries earlier this year demonstrated, local officials and poll workers are overwhelmed by all the changes — some of them engineered by mischievous partisans who have passed laws and rules that would block many eligible citizens from voting. There is a silent disenfranchisement afoot ­– one that could affect hundreds of thousands of voters. …

“In the 2004 presidential election, some states were decided by less than 1 percent of the vote. This year, dozens of Congressional races could be close enough that vote suppression would affect them. … Congress and state legislatures should spurn partisan attempts to manipulate elections by imposing new voting requirements, like proof of citizenship and identification. They should ban wireless components in voting machines and require an audited paper trail. Judges should continue to strike down illegal and anti-democratic laws. And citizens and journalists should demand to know who is being purged from the rolls, and why. All registered voters should cast their ballots and insist their votes be counted.”

Added Levitt: “At a minimum voters should demand a provisional ballot.”
More Information
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Voter Rolls and Election Day

Share

ION SANCHO
Available for a limited number of interviews, Sancho is elections supervisor for Leon County in Florida. He said today: “Florida’s new statewide voter registration database may result in thousands of Floridians not being allowed to vote despite their good-faith efforts to register to vote. The three previous efforts by Florida Secretaries of State to create accurate databases determining the eligibility of voters, in 1998, 2000, and 2004, were abysmal failures. We’ll all find out how good this database is on November 7, 2006.” Sancho will be in New York City on Sunday and Monday.

See: “Documentary to Examine Ballot Security” in Florida Today.
More Information

JUSTIN LEVITT
Associate counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, Levitt said today: “We remain concerned that problems with the voter rolls will impact eligible citizens, and we urge voters who encounter problems at the polls to persevere in the face of administrative difficulties. People should not be discouraged if their names are not found in the poll book — at a minimum, they should demand a provisional ballot.

“For the first time this year, each state is required to have a computerized statewide voter list, replacing what had been local lists of varying quality. These new systems are extremely large and extremely complex, and were put together at an aggressive pace; as with any complex technology project, there could well be glitches in the first big test this election.

“Moreover, particular state procedures are likely to cause problems for some voters. For example, eligible citizens may have problems getting on the rolls in states like North Carolina or South Dakota, which require that a voter’s registration information match information on the motor vehicles or Social Security database before the voter can be registered to vote. Typos and other inconsistencies could prevent eligible voters from getting on the rolls. The Brennan Center successfully litigated a case in Washington state on this issue, but problems remain elsewhere around the country. In Florida, if registration information doesn’t ‘match,’ the voter must vote a provisional ballot, and return to the office of the county supervisor within three days with documentary proof of a driver’s license or Social Security number. And states like Ohio have not publicized their practices, and could well be implementing versions of these ‘no match, no vote’ rules.

“Other procedures may create problems with purges of eligible citizens. As states consolidate local lists statewide, they are also attempting to remove duplicate or ineligible entries, on a greatly expanded scale. Such cleaning is laudable, but must not sweep eligible voters out in the process. We remain concerned that purges undertaken without public scrutiny, and under pressure from federal officials, may cause eligible citizens to be struck from the lists. Given that most of these purges are poorly publicized, we may only find out about the problems with the purges for the first time on Election Day.”
More Information

HARVEY WASSERMAN
Wasserman co-authored the book What Happened in Ohio? and has co-written the recent piece “Will Ken Blackwell find the ways to steal Ohio 2006 as he did in 2004?” which states: “Since 2000, under Blackwell’s supervision, Boards of Elections in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo have eliminated some 500,000 voters from their registration rolls. Nearly all are in heavily Democratic urban areas. In a state where some 5.6 million people voted for president in 2004, this represents nearly 10 percent of the electorate.”

In related news, see AP: “Ohio Seeks to Appeal Judge’s Suspension of Voter ID Law.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Fencing the U.S.-Mexico Border

Share

The New York Times is reports: “President Bush signed into law on Thursday a bill providing for construction of 700 miles of added fencing along the Southwestern border, calling the legislation ‘an important step toward immigration reform.'”

The following analysts and activists are available for interviews:

DEEPA FERNANDES
Fernandes is author of the forthcoming book Targeted: National Security and the Business of Immigration.
More Information

KARLA QUINONEZ-RUGGIERO
Quinonez-Ruggiero is director of Adelante Alliance, a non-profit organization assisting Mexican immigrants in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

JUSTIN AKERS CHACON
Justin Akers Chacon is a professor of U.S. History and Chicano Studies in San Diego, California, and author with historian Mike Davis of the new book No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border.

He said today: “The main problem with things like building a wall is that it doesn’t take into account the causal factors for migration. Also, it’s not really designed to stop migration, but rather to channel it to certain areas, over mountains and deserts. That mostly increases the black market, human smuggling and death.

“Since NAFTA, Mexico has dismantled most of its agrarian support programs which subsidized small and subsistence farmers and fed the urban and rural poor. Similarly, much of the state-owned industrial sector, like the steel industry, which was heavily unionized, was privatized and/or shut down. So you have an increasing population of displaced peoples in the rural regions coupled with declining wages in the urban areas. In the early 1970s, the average wage for a Mexican worker was as high as 1/3 of a U.S. worker — now that’s shrunk to 1/7 to 1/15.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Saddam Verdict and the Election

Share

SCOTT HORTON
Earlier this month, the U.S.-backed special tribunal in Baghdad set Nov. 5 as the date for the announcement of the verdict and sentence in the first trial of Saddam Hussein. The U.S. midterm election is Nov. 7.

Horton is chairman of the International Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Law School. He makes frequent trips to Iraq, working as an attorney representing arrested local-hire reporters of U.S. media.

Horton said today: “Most observers expected the date would be much later, but it seems to have been moved up. It will be front page news in the papers on Monday — the day before the election. This is designed to show some progress in Iraq. The American public will see Saddam condemned to death and see it as a positive thing.

“When you look at polling figures, there have been three significant spike points. One was the date on which Saddam was captured. The second was the purple fingers election. The third was Zarqawi being killed. Based on those three, it’s easy to project that they will get a mild bump out of this.

“In my experience, everything that comes out of Baghdad is very carefully prepared for U.S. domestic consumption. … There is a team of American lawyers working as special legal advisers out of the U.S. embassy, who drive the tribunal. They have been involved in preparing the case and overseeing it from the beginning. The trial, which is shown on TV, has mild entertainment value for Iraqis, but they refer to it regularly as an American puppet theater.”

See: “November Surprise? Why Hasn’t Mainstream Media Connected the Dots Between Saddam’s Judgment Day and the Midterm Elections?” by Tom Engelhardt.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Voting-Rights Activists Working to Overcome ID Barriers in Arizona

Share

“On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s new voter ID laws — requiring photo IDs and proof of citizenship — will remain in place for the November 7 elections,” says Alex Keyssar, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. “Although the Supremes took no position on the legal issues that will ultimately determine whether Arizona’s law is constitutional, they overturned an injunction issued by a lower court that would have suspended the law for the current election.”

The director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, Linda Brown, said today: “By reinstating the ID requirements, the Supreme Court has challenged us to document the extent of disenfranchisement that occurs at the polls on November 7. We now have less than two weeks to put together a volunteer statewide poll-monitoring program. … We are asking the courts to allow our volunteers to be credentialed as non-partisan monitors inside the polling places.”

The president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Bonnie Saunders, said today: “We believe that as citizens we need to act now in order to stop disenfranchisement.”

ALEX KEYSSAR
Keyssar is the Stirling Professor of History and Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the author of the book The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. He said: “The rationale for such laws is that they are needed to prevent fraud — although almost nowhere have the laws’ sponsors been able to document the existence of significant fraud occurring because non-legal voters have pretended to be, or impersonated, legal voters. (A Minnesota study found that there were 32 non-citizens registered to vote, out of more than 3 million.) … What’s happening here is an effort to give strict (and perhaps unnecessarily strict) procedural regulations the same moral authority as laws — such as the Voting Rights Act — that support a fundamental democratic value: the right to vote. It’s a clever rhetorical move — and one that should make our democratic alarm bells go off.”
More Information

LINDA BROWN
Brown is the director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. She said today: “Under the guise of preventing undocumented immigrants from voting, the proponents of this law have disenfranchised tens of thousands of legitimate Arizona voters. … For example many senior citizens do not drive and do not have valid driver’s licenses. Many women have birth certificates with their maiden names, which can cause problems. Many elderly people do not have birth certificates. Some were born at home! Very few people have passports. Obtaining any of these documents requires time, effort and money.”
More Information

BONNIE SAUNDERS
Saunders is the president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona. She said today: “We see the new requirement as a form of poll tax. The new requirement means that you have to buy something in order to vote [you have to buy these documents which cost money]. In the March primary, in one county, 300 people were turned away because they could not produce the necessary documents — 75 percent of those who were turned away did not return to verify their citizenship and most of them were women over the age of 65.”

Saunders added: “There are very few documented instances of voter fraud by non-citizens, perhaps less than 10 in the past decade in Arizona. However, this last summer and fall about 20,000 people were dropped from the voter rolls because they could not produce the required documents. I do not think Arizona voters meant to disenfranchise citizens, but this is what’s happening right now. I’m a historian and I see similarities with the period after the Civil War when the black people first won the right to vote and then lost it through state laws that put impediments on their right to vote. … The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the merits of the case….”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Gas Price Manipulation?

Share

NOMI PRINS
Author of the piece “How the Republicans Can Manipulate Oil Prices for Political Gain,” Prins said today: “Since their August highs, oil prices dropped from $77 to $59 per barrel. Gas prices have fallen from an average of $3.04 to $2.25 per gallon. In a September USA Today poll 42 percent of Americans thought there was a direct connection between the Republicans wanting to keep control of Congress and gas prices falling.

“Free-market types went to town. Oil is set by market forces, not Washington, rang the unified voice of analysts. ‘If only Bush had that kind of control,’ mused White House spokesman Tony Snow. But subtle manipulation is a form of control. …

“An overly speculated market like oil (the most traded commodity in the world) picks up on subtle signs. Just as traders push the market up, they can take it down, depending on those signs.”

Prins is a senior fellow at the think tank Demos. She worked as a managing director for Goldman Sachs and is author of the book How “Conservatives” are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them or Not).
More Information

STEVE KRETZMAN
Executive director of Oil Change International, Kretzman’s most recent piece is “Separation Of Oil And State.” He said today: “What we’re seeing in the oil markets right now is a chilling demonstration of the mutual and constantly converging interests of oil and state in the U.S. In other words, it’s not a conspiracy — it’s the gasoline market, which is an oligopoly, recognizing that its collective self-interest lies in more Republican rule.

“In the current election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that donations from the oil industry and its employees are running 83 percent in favor of Republicans, which is the most pronounced slant by the oil industry — and possibly the most pronounced in any industry — ever. Clearly, they know which side their bread is buttered on, and can take actions to protect those interests.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Loved Ones of Fallen Respond to Bush

Share

During his news conference today, President Bush spoke about the relatives of American soldiers who have died in Iraq. “I’ve met too many wives and husbands who’ve lost their partners in life, too many children who won’t ever see their mom and dad again,” Bush said. “I owe it to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm’s way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain.”

Elaine Johnson and Celeste Zappala each lost a son to the war in Iraq. Both women are active with Gold Star Families Speak Out. They areavailable for interviews about President Bush’s stance on the war.

Interviews with other relatives of American soldiers who served in Iraq can be arranged with the help of Nancy Lessin from Military Families Speak Out.

ELAINE JOHNSON
Johnson is the mother of Darius Jennings, who died in Iraq on November 2, 2003.

CELESTE ZAPPALA
Zappala is the mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since World War II. Sgt. Baker was killed in action in Baghdad on April 26, 2004, while guarding the Iraq Survey Group as they searched for non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
More Information

NANCY LESSIN
Lessin is co-founder of Military Families Speak Out and can help arrange interviews with family members of military personnel who are stationed in Iraq, including personnel who have been caught up in the “backdoor draft.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Election Protection Efforts

Share

A nonpartisan “election protection” coalition, led by the People For the American Way Foundation, the NAACP, and the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, has announced that it is launching a national 1-866-OUR-VOTE voter-assistance hotline and the poll-location web site MyPollingPlace.com. The hotline is staffed by live call-center operators trained to provide state-specific assistance to all voters.

BARBARA R. ARNWINE
Arnwine is the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law. Alton is the public policy director for the organization. Arnwine said today: “This election poses significant challenges for voters more than any time in recent history, with an estimated 30 million voters using new machines for the first time. The 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline serves as a lifeline to voters and is available now to help navigate new requirements as well as answer questions about voter eligibility or [the] location of the polling place.”
More Information

RALPH G. NEAS
Neas is president of the People For the American Way Foundation. He said today: “The November election may well be a crucial turning point for the nation. It’s imperative that voters have faith in our electoral system…” Neas added: “Lawyers, poll monitors and additional volunteers will be mobilized in 16 key states across the nation to assist voters in the days leading up to the election and on Election Day.”
More Information

MARY G. WILSON
The League of Women Voters has produced “5 Things You Need to Know on Election Day cards” — in English and Spanish — and is distributing them nationwide through more than 850 state and local Leagues. The League is also launching today VOTE411.org, a nonpartisan national Web site that provides essential information for voters.

Wilson is the national League president. She said today: “Voters need to know there are simple steps they can take to protect their votes on November 7. Important changes in our voting systems have been implemented over the last few years. All voters need to be aware of what they are and what to expect on Election Day. The ‘5 Things card’ is a handy reference — a last-minute checklist — to help voters prepare to participate in this election. … This checklist includes such things as: go to the right place; bring I.D.; get a ballot; get help; and stay and vote.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Weapons in Space

Share

The lead story in the Washington Post today notes: “President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone ‘hostile to U.S. interests.'”

CRAIG EISENDRATH
Formerly a State Department official handling outer space relations, Eisendrath is coauthor of the forthcoming book War in Heaven: Stopping an Arms Race in Outer Space Before It Is Too Late. He said today: “The document [signed by Bush] contains enormous emphasis on the military use of space and rejects any arms control agreements which might limit the U.S. government. Both Russia and China have indicated willingness to sign a treaty deweaponizing space and we’ve refused. The U.S. government is saying that they can do whatever they want in space and will deny access to anyone they choose. What the document doesn’t say is that the U.S. is developing weapons in space, but it is.”
More Information

ALICE SLATER
Slater is director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. She said today: “The U.S. is spending $11 billion this year on a missile defense system that doesn’t work, except to give offense to Russia and China. The missile defense system is a layered approach to the placement of weapons in space as the U.S. seeks to dominate the earth from the heavens. For the past few years, the UN General Assembly votes to proceed with a treaty to ban weapons in space which passes overwhelmingly. Last year, only the U.S. and Israel voted against this critical initiative to prevent an arms race in space.”
More Information

JONATHAN GRANOFF
President of the Global Security Institute, Granoff said today: “Most of the time the international space engineering community is enhancing the modern quality of life through the use of space-related technology like satellites and cell phones. All but one country in the world want to ensure that space does not become a weaponized theater. The U.S. should be taking advantages of the opportunities that modern technology provides in bringing the world together and advance the peaceful uses of space through a cooperative security regime based on the rule of law. A small minority within the U.S. establishment, however, is driving an agenda that pursues space weaponization in order to pursue unilateral U.S. military full-spectrum dominance without legal constraints.”

Granoff recalled the U.S. government document “Vision for 2020 [PDF],” which outlines how the U.S. government would “control space” to “dominate” the planet below.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Iraqi Fatalities: Truth and Consequences

Share

Last week at a news conference, President Bush said that a new study on deaths in Iraq is “not credible.” The White House and Pentagon have cited much lower figures without clear documentation.

LES ROBERTS
Co-author of the study “Mortality after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A Cross-Sectional Cluster Sample Survey” published last week in The Lancet, Roberts was with Johns Hopkins University when he co-authored the study but has just taken a post at Columbia University. The study is available at The Lancet [PDF].

Roberts said today: “We estimate that there have been 655,000 excess deaths since the invasion of Iraq, and we’re 95 percent sure it’s between about 400,000 and 950,000. We estimate that 600,000 were violent deaths. We found violence from coalition forces continuing to increase but is becoming a smaller share of the cause of death. Our method was to sample 47 random clusters in 16 governorates, with every cluster consisting of 40 households. Information on deaths before the invasion from these households was gathered so we could establish a baseline. … In terms of the reaction from our governmental and military leaders: at a moment when we as a society should be showing contrition, downplaying the death toll seems particularly imprudent.”

PAUL BOLTON
Associate professor of international health at Boston University School of Public Heath, Bolton said today: “This study uses the standard methodology that we use all over the world. Actually, what they did was superior because at the end of the interview process, they asked for a death certificate 87 percent of the time and the interviewees were able to produce it 92 percent of the time. We normally don’t have that kind of verification.”

PATRICK BALL
Ball is a co-author of the book State Violence in Guatemala, 1960-1996, and wrote the chapter “On the Quantification of Horror: Field Notes on Statistical Analysis of Human Rights Violations” in the book “Repression and Mobilization.” Questioned about the disparity between the Lancet study and figures from media reports and efforts like IraqBodyCount.net, Ball said: “I’ve found a similar disparity between reported deaths and likely deaths in other conflicts that I’ve studied in Guatemala, Kosovo, Peru and Timor-Leste. Methods such as media reports typically capture violence well when it is moderate, but when it really increases, they miss a great deal. There are a series of biases regarding what gets reported — we get very good reports about journalists killed, but not rural peasants; we know about big landowners, but not grassroots union organizers.”

Ball is director of the human rights program at Benetech, a firm that uses technology for social good, and works extensively on human rights data analysis.
More Information

BEAU GROSSCUP
Author of the new book Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment, Grosscup is professor of international relations at California State University in Chico. He said today: “President Bush and the Pentagon have deemed as ‘not credible’ a new report claiming around 650,000 Iraqis dead since the start of the U.S. invasion. Neither offer any reason why. The New York Times questions the accuracy of the methodology but fails to note that the researchers have been doing ‘body counts’ for awhile, in the Congo and Sudan among other places, and never have their methodology challenged there. Of course, Africans killing Africans is of little political concern to U.S. politicians.

“But the numbers in the Lancet 2004 report [by the same researchers] — 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians, 79 percent from ‘coalition’ (U.S.) bombing — and the new count are very ‘politically inconvenient’ to an administration bent on proving that victory is close, the insurgency [is] on the run, the Iraqis are better off now than under Saddam and there is no civil war. Both reports also challenge the claim that the U.S. has precision weapons which result in ‘minimal’ civilian deaths to be dismissed as products of the ‘fog of war’ or ‘collateral damage.’ …

“In short, it is not that the Iraqi deaths are unacceptable in human terms — we are always reminded that ‘war is hell.’ It is that they are politically unacceptable, to be summarily dismissed without comment or question. After all, if the president or a general says the numbers are not credible — it must be so.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167