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NDRN and Advancing Justice | AAJC Warn Voters of Potential Challenges on Election Day

For Immediate Release         
October 13, 2016                    

Contact: David Card (NDRN)
202.408.9514 x122

WASHINGTON – The National Disability Rights Network and Asian Americans Advancing Justice| AAJC today released a fact sheet to expose an increasing concern that voter challenges at the polls will disenfranchise people with disabilities, Asian Americans, and other minorities on Election Day.

Election observers (or poll watchers) are permissible by many state laws, which allow private individuals to challenge the right of other citizens to vote – often merely on the basis of the challenger’s “reasonable belief” that the voter is ineligible. While poll watching is intended as part of the checks and balances of the American election system, improper challenges can and do intimidate voters.

For example, a private citizen in Washington State attempted to challenge the right to vote of more than 1,000 people with names that he believed “have no basis in the English language” and “appear to be from outside the United States” while eliminating from his challenge voters with names “that clearly sounded American-born, like John Smith, or Powell.”

“The right to vote is a fundamental part of our democracy and anyone with a pre-disposition to block the democratic rights of people of color or people with disabilities must be removed from the polls,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “We are working side-by-side with the National Disability Rights Network to amplify the voice of individuals who are targeted unfairly.”

And in November 2014, voters with developmental disabilities from a group residence in Maine reported to Disability Rights Maine (a member organization of NDRN’s national network) that they were blocked from voting by a town employee, who refused to allow their personal care attendants to assist them in casting their ballots and then declared they could not vote when the town employee attempted to assist and could not understand them. As the voters left, the town employee asked loudly of their staff, “Are you bringing more of these people?”

“NDRN is very concerned that individuals with disabilities and other minority groups could be prevented from voting by uninformed or misinformed poll workers, or by those who wish to intimidate certain voters,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker.  “We are pleased to be partnering with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC to release this fact sheet so every American is aware of their rights on Election Day.”

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

The mission of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans.  We strive to empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities across the country by bringing local and national constituencies together, advocate for federal policy that reflects the needs of Asian Americans, and promotes a fair and equitable society for all.

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