Citing fears that Republicans will try to intimidate and
disenfranchise voters at the polls, the state Democratic Party
announced yesterday that it will send lawyers to hundreds of
polling sites with high proportions of minority and student voters
to ensure that election rules are followed properly.

Polling places at the University and in other parts of Ann Arbor
are expected to be among those targeted by the team of about 400
attorneys, said state Democratic Party spokesman Jason Moon.

Democrats pointed to the 2000 presidential election in Florida,
where they allege that some voters in predominantly black areas
were turned away from the polls wrongly, as an example of the type
of situation they hope to prevent this year in Michigan.

“We just want to make sure that all voters are aware of
their rights and not intimidated at the polls by Republicans as
they have been in past elections,” Moon said.

But the state Republican Party has accused Democrats of making
empty accusations in order to score political points. Chris
Paolino, a state GOP spokesman, said the Democratic Party rebuffed
offers from Republicans to enact a bipartisan poll-monitoring
effort on election day.

“They rejected (the offer) in favor of playing
politics,” Paolino said. “Unfortunately, after the last
election people are cynical. … (Democrats) basically just
used (poll watching) as a chance to attack the Republican
Party.”

Paolino said Republicans will still send volunteers to observe
polling sites.

Jamaine Dickens, a spokesman for the Michigan Democratic Party,
said students attempting to vote are vulnerable to intimidation or
misguidance because they often are unaware of their rights and are
voting away from home.

“We believe that the Republican Party has a 20-year
history of intimidation and voter rights violations,” he
added.

Moon said one technique that has been used in the past against
student and minority voters waiting in line at the polls is to
“ask them questions about whether they’ve paid their
parking tickets — things totally unrelated to casting their
vote.”

As evidence for their allegation that Republicans plan to
disenfranchise minority voters, Democrats also cited remarks by
state Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy), who said in a July interview
with the Detroit Free Press that, “If (Republicans) do not
suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time
in this election.”

Detroit is overwhelmingly Democratic and along with its
surrounding area contains the majority of the state’s black
population.

Pappageorge, who was serving in the Bush campaign at the time of
his remarks, was widely criticized for his statements and later
apologized.

Greg Malivuk, president of the University chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union, said he welcomes the
Democrats’ plan. He said one concern for student voters is
that they might be told at the polls that they need a Michigan
driver’s license to vote, when in fact they do not.

“If there’s somebody there who knows what the rules
are, and is willing to make sure that you’re allowed to vote
if you’re supposed to vote, that would definitely be a
positive thing,” said Malivuk, an LSA senior.

 

— Daily News Editor Andrew Kaplan contributed to this
article.

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