Eight years after Bush v. Gore, the prospect of another knife-edge election has a number of legal groups ready to file suit should the difference between winning and losing come down to tiny margins in a few battleground states.
While conservative groups are calling for a crackdown on voter fraud, liberal groups say they’re more worried about issues of voter access on Nov. 4. They accuse the Justice Department and conservative activists of using unfounded allegations of fraud as a way of knocking traditional Democratic constituencies minorities, students and the poor off voter rolls.
Panelists from liberal voter advocacy groups at yesterday’s “Protecting the Vote” forum in Washington said they are ready to file lawsuits should they receive reports of widespread voter intimidation and suppression. They’re also undertaking a massive grassroots effort to document any such incidents on election day.
The National Center for Fair Elections has set up a legal advice hotline with 750 call stations across the country, said center director, Jonah Goldman. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund will deploy “rapid response teams” of law students and other volunteers to assist voters who say they’re being intimidated or turned away, said legal counsel Nina Perales. The NAACP will also have volunteers ready to file legal pleadings on behalf of those who are knocked back, according to assistant counsel Kristen Clarke.
But the panelists were short on detail about what kind of lawsuits would be filed and how their arguments would be framed. They raised voter ID and residency requirements as examples of laws they say discriminate against low-income and minority voters, but did not say whether these would form part of a legal challenge. It would appear to be a tough task, since the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID laws in Crawford v. Marion County. Wendy Weiser from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice said the Supreme Court's verdict had “made courts reluctant to decide these issues until after the damage is already done.”
The forum, “Protecting the Vote: A National Conversation on Voting Rights in the 2008 Election,” was jointly hosted by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the American University’s Washington College of Law.
It was held the same day Nevada authorities raided the offices of voter registration group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, alleging voter fraud. Secretary of State Ross Miller said the group had submitted false or duplicated voter registration forms. The group denies any wrongdoing and no charges or arrests have been made. You can read the AP story here.