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Org. looks for election-day help


By Victor Garcia
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 11, 2004
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A new program geared toward helping people understand their voting rights on Election Day is looking for help from UA students.

People For the American Way Foundation's Election Protection program will be on campus today trying to get student volunteers to monitor voting polls in Tucson and assist voters who might not understand their rights.

Poll monitors will make sure people are not turned away or denied their right to vote because of voter intimidation or because they don't speak English, said John Hartsell, Arizona state director for the Election Protection program.

"There are a lot of organizations registering voters," Hartsell said. "We just want to make sure that everyone who wants to vote gets the same opportunities."

The Election Protection program is targeting political science and law students and professors because of their legal or political experience, said Erika Sandoval, Tucson coordinator/recruiter for Election protection.

pullquote
We just want to make sure that everyone who wants to vote gets the same opportunities.

- John Hartsell

pullquote

Sandoval said students can work by passing out literature about voting rights, volunteering legal advice or acting as a poll monitor.

Alistair Chapman, Associated Students of the University of Arizona president agreed students should help inform people on Election Day.

"I think people need to understand their rights when it comes to voting," Chapman said.

The group plans to speak to UA students in political science and law classes.

The Election Protection program is looking for Spanish-speaking student volunteers to help largely Latino areas of Tucson, Sandoval said.

"We really need bilingual speakers," Sandoval said. "The precincts that we're going to be targeting have a lot of Latino residents."

According to a news release from Election Protection, during the 2000 election there were many reported illegal incidents across the nation.

For example, in Philadelphia, black voters were confronted by men dressed as law enforcement officers discouraging them to vote, the release stated.

There were also documented incidents of illegal activity in North Dakota and Florida where minorities were denied their right to vote.

Marisol Diaz, Coordinator for Retention Programs and Services at Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs said it is important for volunteers to watch for discrimination against non-English-speaking voters.

"I think it's unfortunate that we have to make it where (poll monitors) need to baby-sit," Diaz said. "But it looks like it may be necessary."

Hartsell said he expects to have around 800 volunteers monitoring polls and more than 100 attorneys and law students offering legal advice throughout Arizona on Election Day.

Volunteers from the UA will join hundreds from across the nation who will come to Arizona just to assist in the November election, Hartsell said.

Voters who have questions about their rights can also call a hotline for advice from a legal expert on Election Day.

The hotline will dispatch attorneys to areas that might be breaking the law by refusing people their right to vote or by giving voters faulty information, Hartsell said.

Hartsell said his organization aims to make sure people don't get turned away from the polls on what he said is expected to be an election with a large voter turnout.

"We want to make sure folks who are trying to vote will vote and that their voices will be heard," Hartsell said.

Sandoval plans to meet with students and organizations today to talk about the program.

Hartsell said students should volunteer because Arizona is an important swing state and could be subject to election problems similar to those that occurred in Florida in 2000.

"If they're worried about Arizona becoming the next Florida, come out and volunteer with our organization," Hartsell said.

"(Students) need to register to vote and get out to the polls Nov. 2," Hartsell said. "No matter who you're voting for."

For more information on the Election Protection program go to www.electionprotection.org.

To report any rights violations at the polls, call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.



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