NY Times: "Hurdles to Voting Persisted in 2008"

Study finds 4% - 6% of eligible voters didn't vote or were discouraged from voting due to various problems

According to a study by the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES), which the New York Times describes as "a consortium of more than 150 university researchers, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who specialize in voting issues," approximately four to five million eligible voters (about 2% - 3% of all voters) didn't cast a ballot in the November, 2008 election because of registration problems or because they didn't receive their absentee ballot in time (or they never received it at all). This is the same number, roughly, of those who encountered the same problems in the 2000 election.

The report, which was presented to the Senate Rules Committee today (webcast of today's hearing is available), highlights the problems with registration that about six to eight million Americans encountered when they tried to register to vote for the November election.

According to the Times, Senator Charles E. Schumer, (D) New York, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said "It's clear that the high turnout on Nov. 4 of last year simply masked persistent problems that still need to be fixed. Had the election been close, these problems would have received a lot more attention because they could have made the difference in which candidate won."

Schumer also said that the number of people prevented from voting in 2008 exceeded the popular-vote margin in the previous two presidential elections.

Said Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of political science at Harvard and the lead author of the study, "Registration issues were for 2008 what machine problems were for the 2000 election."

In a separate report from the National Campaign for Fair Elections of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Jonah Goldman, director of the organization, said their election protection hot line handled more than 240,000 calls from voters during the 2008 election cycle, with more than one-third of the problems being voter registration issues. Voter registration issues were the largest single source of problems for voters, Goldman said.

Those testifying at today's hearing, in addition to Prof. Ansolabehere and Jonah Goldman, were Curtis Gans, Director Center for the Study of the American Electorate, Nathaniel Persily, Professor of Law and Political Science at Columbia Law School, Chris Nelson, South Dakota Secretary of State, and Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Here are some of Sen. Schumer's quotes from today's hearing.

"If voting is the heart of democracy, registering Americans is the life-blood of our republic. ... What the butterfly ballots and hanging chads were in 2000 is what voter registration problems are today."

"Hidden from [sic] the excitement of this past election was the fact the millions of voters, through no fault of their own, were shut out of this process due to deeply rooted problems that need to be fixed."

"As many as seven million eligible and registered voters were denied the right to vote, whether it was a photo ID requirement, list purges, no match/no vote comparisons, or simply because they moved..."

"As many as 9 million additional people were prevented from registering due to deadlines and change-of-residency requirements."

"Put together, you get massive disenfranchisement, and this is undemocratic, and unacceptable."

A webcast of the entire hearing can be viewed here.


NY Times: "Hurdles to Voting Persisted in 2008":

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