Monday, February 05, 2007

Nassau Commissioners: Protect voters' rights in tomorrow's election

Saturday’s New York Times reported on some disturbing developments related to tomorrow’s special State Senate selection in Nassau County. Among them was a state party chair expressing the intent to direct his poll watchers to challenge voters without identification documents. Or, in his own words:
Our poll watchers and election inspectors will challenge people to show some kind of identification as to who they are…They have a right to ask for identification to make sure you are John Smith.
Except that, actually, they don’t.

In New York, it’s simply not the case that every voter has to show an identification document before they vote on the machines. Some do, yes – but only new registrants whose information hasn’t been successfully matched against information in another government source, like the motor vehicles database. Your grandmother, who has been voting for the last 60 years, doesn’t have to suddenly pony up a passport.

Along with several prominent non-profits in New York, we are sending a letter to the Commissioners of the Nassau County Board of Elections explaining that neither poll watchers nor election inspectors have the right to force Grandma to produce a magic document that she very well might not possess. If, and only if, a poll watcher knows or suspects that she is not entitled to vote in her district – which has nothing to do with whether she has shown ID or not – the watcher can institute a challenge. And according to the law, if after answering questions put to her by the election officials, your grandmother looks the official in the eye and swears an oath that she’s eligible to vote (and acknowledging the criminal penalties for voter fraud), she can vote. Simple as that.

It’s a shame when elections take place under the cloud of threatened sweeping challenges to voters’ eligibility. Last November, when such a spectre arose in Westchester County, candidates of both major parties recognized the harm, and issued clear public statements condemning the contemplated challenges.

Let’s hope that the voters of Nassau earn at least that much respect from those who want to earn their votes.

Categories: General, Voting

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