Civil Rights Coalition Demands That Republican National Committee End Voter Suppression Efforts

Media 10.28.04

At a press conference held in front of the Republican National Committee’s (RNC’s) headquarters, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today called on RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie to put an end to Republican-initiated plans aimed at suppressing or intimidating minority or disabled voters at the polls during the November 2nd general election.
“In state after state Republican officials and operatives are working to deny American citizens the right to vote,” said Wade Henderson, LCCR Executive Director. “We’re here today to ask the RNC Chairman to put a stop to these activities.”

Last week, LCCR sent letters to both RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe expressing concern about recent reports that partisan entities planned to conduct aggressive challenges to voters at the polls during the November 2nd general election. In the letter, LCCR cited an article in U.S. News and World Report in which Michigan state representative and Bush-Cheney campaign official John Papageorge was quoted as saying that the GOP would fare poorly in that state “if we do not suppress the Detroit vote.”

“In light of the widespread disenfranchisement of minority voters in 2000, it is more important than ever that this November’s election proceed smoothly and equitably,” said Henderson. “However, in recent days, we have heard more and more about efforts by Republican Party officials to target minority voters and voters with disabilities for suppression and intimidation.”

“The announced plan by Wisconsin Republicans to initiate background checks on newly registered voters is an intimidation technique, designed to induce fear on the part of newly registered voters, particularly in minority communities,” said Hilary Shelton, Director of the Washington Bureau for the NAACP. “We call on the RNC to work with us to empower minority communities, not deny them their fundamental rights.”
“Sometimes, there is a thin line between enforcement of election law and voter intimidation. This election, we must ensure that, whatever the results, we emerge stronger,” said Cecilia Muñoz, Vice President, National Council of La Raza. “Selective access to the polls, arbitrary voter purges, and speculative complaints of wrongdoing hurt us all. All the efforts and investments that have been made during this election season to empower Latinos and other minorities will amount to nothing if at the end of the day we diminish or weaken the very process we are trying to energize.”
“Ed Gillespie and the National Republican Committee have a moral obligation to condemn Cuyahoga County’s Republican Party Chairman, who said that the Ohio Republican Party is organizing to prevent people with mental disabilities from voting,” said Jim Dickson, Vice President for Government Affairs for the American Association of People with Disabilities. “Ohio law is clear: a person with a mental disability loses his or her right to vote only after having been declared incompetent, for the purposes of voting, by a judge.”

“Voters have enough to worry about on Election Day: tough decisions to make, new voting technology to figure out, long lines to navigate,” said Alan Charney, Civic Engagement Director for USAction Education Fund. “They do not need the added worry that they will be a victim of a planned program of suppression.”

Despite requests from the civil rights community, the Republican National Committee has refused even to discuss these pressing issues.

“The insertion of large numbers of partisan challengers into an electoral mix that already includes new identification and provisional ballot procedures threatens to create chaotic conditions that will again disenfranchise large numbers of eligible minority voters,” concluded Henderson. “Democracy demands equality of ballot access for all Americans.”