The Beta Alpha chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the People for the American Way Foundation kicked off their Election Protection 2004 initiative last night at Love and Faith Ministries.
The two organizations will conduct a week-long recruitment to draw poll workers for monitoring precincts around Leon County during Election Day. The volunteers will be responsible for making sure no registered voter is shut out of the ballot-casting process over irregularities at various voting cites.
“On Election Day, [poll monitors] go to the polls, stand outside and hand out our Florida Voter’s Bill of Rights,” said Catarah Hampshire, member of the Beta Alpha chapter and People For The American Way state volunteer coordinator. “This is to make sure people know what their rights are when they’re going to the polls.”
According to www.electionprotect2004.org, the Florida Voter’s Bill of Rights leaflet is a 15-point situational list of privileges that ballot casters are guaranteed by law.
For instance, according to the document, in the event that a voter is asked to show his or her voter registration identification card and does not have it, that person still has the right to vote.
Many of the bullets also addressed issues first-time voters of the 2000 election experienced. During that year, many FAMU students reported various run-ins with trying to vote.
Alumna Leandra Padgett said at a recent rally to fire Glenda Hood that she was one of those who couldn’t vote in 2000.
“In 2000, I was disenfranchised…I wasn’t on the list. I didn’t get to vote.”
Some did not receive their voter registration cards, were not notified of a change in voting precinct until they arrived at their initial poll site or were told they could not vote without identification.
“We’re out there to make sure people have the right to vote,” Hampshire said.
“If we see someone who comes out of the precinct who looks disgruntled or doesn’t have an ‘I Voted’ sticker, we’re going to approach them and ask, ‘Is everything okay?'”
If not, Election Protection poll monitors will log that person’s grievance onto a complaint form and try to fix the situation by speaking to a poll worker with the Supervisor of Elections Office.
But what if they can’t?
“We provide all of our poll monitors with cell phones,” said Hampshire.
The workers will then call in the situation to a team of lawyers at People For The American Way Foundation headquarters. From there, a member of the legal team will inform the poll worker and voter of what can be done. “So what we’re saying is that every person who goes to the poll that day is going to have a lawyer.”
Anthony Davis, the former president of the FAMU chapter of the NAACP in 2000 spoke on the importance of students being involved within the election process aside from just voting.
“Allowing them to be poll monitors, to work at Election Protection as volunteers [lets them] see how important one vote to 500,000 votes will mean to us,” said Davis, who is serving as the Love and Faith Ministries church liaison for Election Protection. “We want to give students the opportunity to actually experience it by working it. A person will feel that they’re more utilized or more needed when they’re actually out there working themselves.”
Anyone interested in becoming a poll monitor must attend the mandatory training session Nov.1 in Perry Paige Auditorium from 6 to 8 p.m.
<Contact Monica Harden at firstname.lastname@example.org.