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DNC Voting Rights Institute Report

"Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio"


The DNC's Voting Rights Institute released their report on the 2004 Ohio Election this morning.

The entire report, entitled "Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio", compiled over five months is available at the DNC website.

In presenting the report to DNC chair Howard Dean, Donna Brazile, the chair of the Voting Rights Institute made the following opening remarks.

(Highlights from her remarks were reported in this previous BRAD BLOG item.)

Remarks by Donna Brazile, Chair
DNC's Voting Rights Institute
Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio
Press Conference
June 22, 2005

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

On behalf of the Voting Rights Institute, I am pleased to submit our final report on the 2004 presidential elections - "Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio."

Governor Dean has provided you with an overview of our report which has been five months in the making and represents an exhaustive review of public documents, surveys and opinion polls, technical research and anecdotal evidence provided by team members who were on the ground in Ohio as participants in the 2004 Ohio Voter Protection program. 

I wish to emphasize from the outset that the purpose of the study was not to contest results of the election. Rather, the purpose is to fulfill our Party's commitment to ensuring every eligible voter can vote and that every vote is counted. 

The right to vote is the bedrock on which our Democracy stands. If citizens cannot believe that their vote counts, and will actually be counted, they understandably lose interest in the basic work of citizenship, like voting and participating in public debate over relevant issues. 

Our study addresses legitimate questions and concerns raised in Ohio, including questions about voting machines - How effective were they? 

Why were there enough machines in some counties and not in others? Why were there so many more provisional ballots cast in Ohio than in other states of comparable size? 
2.8% of all ballots cast in Ohio were provisional ballots, as contrasted with only 0.9% in PA and 0.3% in FLA. 

Why were people standing in line for hours and why weren't they showing up on the rolls after so many new voters registered? Why did young people have so many hassles voting? How did the various problems encountered by voters at the polls vary according to Age? Wealth? Race? Gender? 

In order to complete our study and analysis of voting problems in Ohio, the DNC assembled a first-rate team of professional pollsters, statisticians, technical analysts and leaders of the Kerry-Edwards Ohio Voting Protection team to gather facts, survey voters, and conduct a rigorous analysis of the data collected. The investigative team is supported by an advisory team comprised of Ohio legislators, election activists, campaign staff and election attorneys who will be instrumental in helping the Voting Rights Institute implement the recommendations for future action that are contained in our report "Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio". 

Our report concludes that more than one-quarter of Ohio voters had problems at the polls. Far more troubling, twice as many African American voters reported problems at the polls than did white voters. 

Ohio voters report experiencing a wide range of problems, the most common of which was long lines. African American voters reported waiting an average of 52 minutes before voting while white voters overall reported waiting 18 minutes.

Voters also reported confusion at the polls, incompetence and negligence on the part of polling officials, problems with registration status, problems locating the proper polling place, problems with absentee and provisional ballots and unlawful identification requirements at the polls.

African American voters were far more likely to have their registration status challenged and to report experiencing intimidation at the polls than other voters. 16% of African Americans reported experiencing intimidation at the polls as opposed to 5% of whites. African Americans and voters under age 30 were far more likely to have their identification checked at the polls, very often illegally. Under Ohio law, only voters voting in a Federal election for the first time who had not provided identification at the time they registered to vote may be required to show ID at the polls.

But while only 7% of Ohio voters were newly registered and only a fraction of those new voters failed to provide ID at the time they registered to vote, 37% of voters statewide were required to produce ID at the polls, meaning that many voters were illegally required to produce identification. Fully 67% of voters under age 30 were required to produce ID at the polls, and 67% of African American males were required to produce ID in order to vote.

Counties using touchscreen machines had far more problems than voters in other counties. The quantity of touchscreen machines varied widely from county to county. In Franklin County (Columbus and surrounding cities), where 74% of voters reported waiting in line more than 20 minutes) there were proportionally fewer machines in minority neighborhoods. 

The study reveals a profound lack of confidence in the democratic process in Ohio, divided sharply along racial lines. Nearly one-quarter of Ohio voters report that their experience in 2004 has made them less confident about the reliability of elections in Ohio. 71% of whites reported being very confident their vote was counted as opposed to 19% of African Americans.

I would now like to introduce those members of our investigative team who will explain the methodology used in their portion of our study. I ask that all questions be held until the experts have concluded with their presentations.

First, I would like to introduce Dr. Walter Mebane, a professor in the department of Government at Cornell University who, along with his colleagues, Dr. Michael C. Herron, Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Dr. Jasjeet Sekhon, Associate professor of Government at Harvard University, conducted the quantitative analysis of data included in our report. 

Dr. Mebane will summarize the design and significant findings in the quantitative portion of our report. It is possible that Dr. Herron will be available for questions at the end of our full team presentation.
Let me also introduce, via teleconference, Dr. Dan Wallach, Ph.D., who is an Associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Rice University. Dr. Wallach, along with his colleague, Dr. Juan Jover, an engineer and expert familiar with the investigation of false claims related to technology devices, reviewed the analysis of data provided by the quantitative team members, conducted additional research and provided recommendations concerning voting machines and equipment used to calculate votes cast. Dr. Wallach will present a summary of the significant findings and recommendations provided by himself and Dr. Jover. Dr. Jover will possibly be available to answer questions at the end of our team's presentation.

Present with us today, representing the public research members of our team is Cornell Belcher, principal in brilliant corners Research & Strategies, who, with Diane Feldman of The Feldman Group conducted multiple surveys of voters in Ohio on issues related to the Voting Experience on November 2 and separate polls surrounding the issues related to provisional ballots in Ohio during the 2004 general election. Diane will be available via teleconference to answer questions at the end of our team presentations today.

Eric Greenwald, a lawyer and consultant in DC, who was the Deputy Director for Voter Protection in Ohio where he coordinated very closely with election officials and collaborated on litigation concerning provisional ballots and voter registration. Eric was responsible for obtaining the data on behalf of our quantitative and technical expert team members. He is available by teleconference to summarize the methods and procedures by which he obtained relevant data and to explain some of the frustrations he experienced in the course of gathering data for this study. Eric also will share some of his recommendations that would pave the way for easier access to this type of public information in the future.

I would also like to introduce to you Julie Andreeff Jensen, an attorney who was a regional field director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. As part of her role in Ohio, she built and managed in Cuyahoga County the largest voter protection and education team in presidential history. Julie recruited and trained over 1,500 poll watchers and helped direct the largest ever get-out-the-vote effort among Democrats in Cuyahoga County.
Julie will be available to answer questions following the press conference today.

You will find in your press packets a list of 23 recommendations for further action to implement the principles contained in our report, "Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio." Election reform is a bipartisan responsibility and a bipartisan concern. The Democratic Party will continue to work with Members of Congress, state lawmakers, local election officials and community leaders to make sure that all voters maintain confidence in our system of elections. We will also post the results of our study on the official Voting Rights Institute website to help educate citizens about what is at stake in the next election.

Among the recommendations made in our report, is the request for a commitment on the part of the Democratic Party to monitor election reform in all fifty states and the district of Columbia, including the codification into law of all election practices; the adoption of clear standards for the equitable distribution of voting equipment and the assignment of poll workers; the adoption of uniform standards for voter registration and the monitoring of same; the implementation of statewide voter lists; the adoption of uniform standards for the issuance of provisional ballots and enforceable rules for counting provisional ballots; to adopt legislation which limits identification requirements to first time voters at the time they apply for voter registration or the first time they vote, whichever should first occur, and to adopt and enforce procedures to guarantee that identification requirements are not abused as a voter suppression tactic; to encourage the adoption of precinct-tabulated optical scan voting machines; to abstain from using touchscreen voting machines unless or until they are perfected such that they are no longer vulnerable to fraud---and even then, to discontinue the use of touchscreen voting machines that do not have a reliable voter verifiable audit feature; to discontinue the use of punchcard systems; and to require voting equipment vendors to disclose source codes so that they may be examined by third parties and ensure that voting procedures are transparent at every level of the voting process; to push for legislation requiring that all equipment used by voters to tabulate votes must not be used for any other purpose; to encourage states to adopt "no excuse required" standards for absentee voting; to encourage states to make it easier for college students to vote in the jurisdiction where their school is located; to develop secure and effective voting procedures for registered voters living overseas; to make voter suppression a criminal offense in every jurisdiction; to improve the education of poll workers and to educate voters where, when and how to vote; and to prohibit partisan officials who volunteer to work for a candidate from overseeing or administering that candidate's election. 

The right to vote, and to participate in the electoral process must never be compromised.

This summer America will mark the 40th Anniversary of the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act- bipartisan legislation that abolished literacy tests and poll taxes that effectively muted the voices of so many and denied generations of African Americans a voice in the governance of their country. Three important provisions of this landmark civil rights act are set to expire in 2007. As Democrats, we will work with legislators on both sides of the aisle for their renewal and robust enforcement. 

Thanks so much.

We'll take your questions now.


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