Monday, October 30, 2006

"Dean Sends Letter to Mehlman"

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean today sent a letter to
Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman calling on the Republican leader to confirm that "the RNC will refrain from engaging in, assisting in or participating in any" program that could potentially disenfranchise voters in these midterm elections. The letter specifically calls on Mehlman to comply with both the letter and spirit of a "consent decree," which was entered into as a result of a lawsuit the DNC filed against the RNC over Republican so-called "ballot security" initiatives that targeted predominantly African American and Hispanic voters to keep them from exercising their fundamental right to vote.

This November it will have been 25 years since the RNC scheme was used in New Jersey by Republican operatives who compiled a list of 45,000 voters to challenge at the polls because mail to the address at which they were registered had been returned. RNC poll watchers tried to have those voters removed from the rolls, and Republican operatives employed off-duty county sheriffs and local police to watch polling places in predominantly African-American and Latino precincts where they had posted signs warning minority voters that it was a crime to violate election laws.

In 1986, the RNC tried the same tactic in Louisiana targeting 31,000 voters, and the "consent decree" was subsequently expanded forcing the RNC to obtain prior court approval for all efforts to allegedly combat "voter fraud" other than standard poll watcher activities. The amended "consent decree" remains in effect, and requires the RNC to provide the DNC with 20 days notice prior to going to court to submit "ballot security" programs for approval. Since the November 7th elections are less than 20 days away and the RNC has not notified the DNC of any such initiative, the letter calls on Republican Chairman Mehlman to confirm that no such activities are planned by the "RNC itself, its state or local parties, Republican candidates or allied organizations such as the Republican National Lawyers Association or National Republican Senatorial Committee."

In the letter Dean reminded Mehlman that "as the chairmen of the two major national parties, we have a responsibility to encourage people to participate in the political process and aggressively guard their constitutionally protected right to vote." Dean further urged Mehlman to reply promptly "so that all eligible registered voters can be assured of a fair election and of having the opportunity to vote free from harassment, intimidation or other efforts to deny them the right to cast their vote and have it counted."

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