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November 02, 2004

ARCHIVE: Election Day Lawyers


INTRO: Electronic voting machines and printers already change the flavor of Election Day. Attorneys are another recent addition to the polls. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports on why.

SOUND: Democratic Headquarters under and out

PLASKON: Down on the eclectic east side of town is the Democratic Party Headquarters. It's busy to the point of chaos and its messy. The walls are plastered with Kerry posters but not a single photo of the candidate.

SOUND: Republican headquarters. T1

PLASKON: The Republican Party headquarters on the other hand is up in the affluent north- west side of town. More pictures of Ronald Regan adorn the walls than George W. Bush. People talk on the phone and behind them a pile of red t-shirts say looser below John Kerry's name.

PLASKON: Both locations bill themselves as the center of rallying voters. Nevada Republican Party Executive Director, Chris Carr says his campaign workers have been the victims of tire slashing here and the party's been accused of sneaky plans to deny Democrats the right to vote.

CARR: Of course they always make these silly allegations of you know Republicans trying to do voter intimidation or whatever.

SUMMERS: Republicans are trying to suppress the vote and intimidate voters.

PLASKON: John Summers of the Democratic Party says it's not silly at all.

SUMMERS: We know this because Dan Burdish the former Executive director of the Nevada Republican Party tried to take 17-thousand voters off of the voter rolls. The republican funded Voters Outreach of America ripped up Democratic registration forms.

PLASKON: The exact same tactic Burdish used has roots dating back to 1958, one of many documented Republican voter suppression activities called Ballot Security Programs. Possibly the first academic study of them was released by Rice University in September. The hundred-page paper explores how these activities are usually aimed at minorities. From threatening arrest at voting sites for unpaid parking tickets to sending flyers reminding Democrats to vote, but doing so on the wrong day, the methods often receive a wink and nod from the Republican Parties top brass according to the paper's authors. Nevadan's learned this year that the methods are at least tied to the party when a RNC-funded company was accused of tearing up Democratic registration forms. That investigation is now in the hands of the U-S attorney. Sylvia Lazos Professor at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law is familiar with Republican Ballot Security Measures.

LAZOS: Actually they have a history that is not of a high pedigree.

PLASKON: They first gained national attention in 1971 when President Nixon nominated William Rhenquist for the Supreme Court. During hearings five witnesses accused Rhenquist of harassing black would-be voters with literacy tests in 1964. The measures are usually promoted by the party as preventing voter fraud. So Lazos saw a red flag when she heard that same claim from a Colorado Republican student she had invited for a bi-partisan poll watcher recruitment. The student said each Republican poll watcher in Nevada would get a Personal Digital Assistant or PDA, capable of holding large lists of names.

LAZOS: When he was questioned about what the PDAs were for he mentioned that the Republican party was very concerned about fraud.

PLASKON: Chris Carr of the Republican Party admits they will hand out PDAs and says the information in them will have nothing to do with preventing voter fraud.

CARR: I think we have a very good plan, an elaborate plan for get out the vote. We do have PDA's lined up and we do have a list of our supporters so we can track who has voted so then we can target our efforts at those who haven't voted by a certain time of the day.

SUMMERS: That is not what the palm pilots are there for. We can do that in our office.

PLASKON: John Summers of the Democratic party says Republicans had planned to put a list of voters to challenge in the PDA. Challenges have been successful for decades in creating long lines that frustrate voters according to the Rice University study. To combat this threat, attorneys will be at the polls to ensure that any challenges are handled so that lines of voters keep moving. John Hunt senior Coordinator of Veterans for Kerry is one such attorney. He doubts there will be many challenges at the polls because of the attorneys presence and awareness of the common Republican tactics.

HUNT: Now there may be a small minute minority that are so zelots on both sides that they may do anything to compromise our most precious right.

PLASKON: While he says the threat of challenges is minimal, Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax warned yesterday that someone claiming to represent the election department was calling Democrats and telling them that their polling place had changed. Victims who go to the wrong polling place will have to file provisional ballots. Attorneys say they'll make sure no one stands in the way of that final step.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

See discussion rules.


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