MALDEF Continues 40 Years of Voter Protection Advocacy in November Elections

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Following is the main text of this month's newsletter.

OCTOBER 1, 2008 - For 40 years, from litigation to legislation to leadership development, MALDEF has fought to protect and expand the right to vote. In 2008, we expect record numbers of Latinos registered and voting on Election Day. That work -- our work together -- could be jeopardized without vigorous, concerted and comprehensive efforts around the country to ensure that all Latino citizens are able to register, vote and have their vote counted.

In conjunction with many legal and community organizations, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), each of the MALDEF regional and national offices are devoting significant time and attention on voter protection from today to after the November election.

Voter registration requirements and deadlines vary by state. The most typical deadline for registration this year is Tuesday, October 7. People who have recently moved or have other reasons may have a later deadline but the earlier you register, the better! Advocates and observers expect record turnouts. We are working with the U.S. Department of Justice and local advocates to monitor whether election administrators will be ready on Election Day. MALDEF attorneys are also ready to go to court to keep polls open after hours so Latino registered voters can vote if they are otherwise denied that opportunity, whether by long lines, unavailable ballots or other reasons.

Of great importance to Latino voters are the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act that require election officials to provide written and oral language assistance to eligible voters who live in jurisdictions where there are large concentrations of language minority voters. Because these provisions have successfully removed language ability as a barrier to voting, MALDEF recently sent letters to election officials reminding them of their obligation to provide language assistance. To further promote political participation by language minority groups, some of our regional offices are helping to recruit Spanish-speaking poll workers. We are also checking the accuracy of Spanish-language translations of sample ballots and other election related materials.

We have identified key states with high Latino citizen voting age populations, such as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arizona, and have identified areas of heavy concentration of Latino registered voters in each of those key states. We are working with other lawyers, law students and community advocates to monitor election day activities and to alert us when problems arise.

MALDEF attorneys have participated in several media-related efforts to provide voters with information regarding election protection issues including voter eligibility rules and requirements, and to broadcast voter hotline phone numbers. MALDEF attorneys will record public service announcements to provide general election information focusing on voters’ rights.

Since our founding 40 years ago, MALDEF has challenged voting laws that deny Latinos an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Recently, MALDEF challenged voter identification laws in Arizona, and filed an Amicus Brief opposing such laws in the United States Supreme Court in the Indiana voter identification case. Prior to and on Election Day, we will be on alert for tactics to intimidate, confuse or discourage Latino voters based on their race, national origin or ethnicity. Presently, we are investigating community concerns that sheriff’s deputies may be placed at polling places on election day in Maricopa County, Arizona.

On Election Day, we will be prepared to address problems with local, state and federal election officials and to file cases, where necessary, when limitations are being placed on the right to vote. Our attorneys across the nation will participate in election protection hotlines including NALEO’s "Ve y Vota."

You can help us by letting us know hot spots where the rights of Latino voters are unfairly challenged. Together, whatever the outcomes, we can ensure the Latino voice is heard at the ballot box.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund