Due to rising tensions over voter fraud and intimidation at the
polls, voters will not only face election officials when they cast
their ballots today, but will also be seeing volunteer poll
monitors and poll challengers trying to ensure a smooth-running

Mira Levitan
Kristie Cunningham, an election clerk for Polk County Iowa, walks through secrecy envelope packages at the Polk County Elections Office in Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday. The packages, which contain secrecy envelopes, pens, pencils, notebooks and other elec

Poll challengers, who will be coming from partisan groups, have
the authority to challenge election officials on issues such as
voters being in the correct precinct or qualifying for a
provisional ballot. Mostly they will be present to make sure
everything runs smoothly, said Chris Paolino, spokesman for the
Michigan Republican Party.

Poll monitors, largely trained and sent to polling sites by
nonpartisan groups, will also work to ensure the elections run
smoothly, but they do not have the authority to challenge election
officials. Instead, monitors will mostly check for voter
intimidation or discrimination and report any incidents to a
hotline of lawyers that their organization has set up in local and
national offices.

Michigan’s Democratic Party’s spokesman Jason Moon
said the party will also be send volunteer lawyers to the polling
sites to ensure that Republican poll challengers do not try to
disenfranchise voters. Democratic spokespeople said in previous
interviews that Republicans would try to intimidate student and
minority voters today in an attempt to discourage people from

Moon said all lawyers that will be present at sites will be

The Republican Party will have poll challengers at precincts to
check for any problems and make sure that no political advertising
is being done within 100 yards of the polling site, Paolino said.
They will not be sending lawyers to the polls.

“The Democrats have definitely made this an election about
lawyers. We will combat any Democrat dirty tricks by having
Republican lawyers standing by,” Paolino said.

Nonpartisan organizations will have poll monitors at sites that
they perceive fostered discrimination against voters in past

The Michigan Student Assembly’s Voice Your Vote Commission
will have a poll monitor at every predominantly student precinct,
such as the Michigan Union and Bursley Residence Hall, said Pete
Woiwode, co-chair of the commission

If the problem is unsolved at the polling site, volunteers can
then call a legal team.

“Volunteers will call a hotline that goes to a legal team
and report the incident. If legal action is necessary, someone will
come by and make sure everything gets figured out,” Woiwode

Voice Your Vote is working with Election Protection, a
nonpartisan group that will be training volunteers to monitor
polls. Volunteers have been trained to provide voters with a
“voter’s bill of rights” and to ask them to check
that they have the correct ballot.

Other nonpartisan groups have more specific goals when training
their poll monitors. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education
Fund has teamed up with the University’s Asian and Arab
American student groups and will have volunteers today in cities
that may have previously discriminated against Asian Americans

Like Voice Your Vote, volunteers from the fund have a hotline
number, which will be answered by law students and lawyers, said
Margaret Fung, executive director of the fund. The organization is
concerned mainly with whether Asian Americans receive language
assistance in precincts that are required to provide this service,
and if voters who qualify for provisional ballots receive them.
Provisional ballots are given to voters who vote in the city in
which they are registered, but show up to the wrong precinct.

The Fund will have one volunteer at the Michigan Union and more
in other cities in southeast Michigan.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also concerned with cities
that have a history of voter discrimination. They will have 32 poll
monitors in Hamtramck community enclosed in Detroit, where they
will monitor the treatment of Arab Americans.

Poll monitors will also be present at polls in a few other
states, such as New York where they will check to see if ballots
have been translated into Spanish and Chinese.

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