Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The NAACP yesterday said it will send monitors to polls in 10 states, including Maryland, where voting problems have been reported in recent years.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People conducts monitoring at the polls every midterm and presidential election year.

Bruce S. Gordon, the NAACP president and chief executive officer, said he was prompted to announce the group’s program this year because of reputed wide-ranging voter irregularities in several Maryland counties, including Baltimore, where the organization is headquartered.

“In light of the problems in the state during last month’s primary elections caused by malfunctioning computer equipment and human error, I am pleased to see that you have ordered backup paper ballots to avoid some of the problems with the touch-screen voting machines,” Mr. Gordon wrote in a letter to Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

In the letter, Mr. Gordon commended Mr. Ehrlich for ordering that backup paper ballots be used to avoid any problems with the touch-screen voting machines.

He also requested the governor order the Board of Elections to hold statewide demonstrations of the new machines, ensure that the electronic registration rolls are updated, and make certain there are adequate numbers of trained election judges at the polls on time and for the entire day.

In addition, he asked that each precinct have a sufficient number of provisional ballots — many ran out during the primaries — and maintain privacy for voters, whether they vote using touch-screen or paper ballots.

The NAACP will run an Election Day voter command center at the Baltimore headquarters. Volunteers will observe targeted precincts in the Baltimore area and Prince Georges and Montgomery counties, where the majority of the irregularities occurred.

The voter command center will also be staffed with lawyers from the group’s partnering organizations, including the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and People for the American Way, to monitor complaints of voter irregularities and to advise voters experiencing problems at the polls.

The groups will forward any major problems to the Justice Department for further investigation.

The other nine states were chosen because they have pivotal elections, high concentrations of black voters or a history of polling problems, including Gulf Coast states Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas.

The dispersal of residents from those states after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit last year prompted the NAACP to start a registration campaign to help evacuees register to vote in their new location or maintain their home-state registration.

The NAACP will also be monitoring elections in Michigan and Ohio, which had rampant complaints of insufficient voting machines, fewer polling places and polls opening late during the 2004 presidential election.

Georgia and Pennsylvania were selected randomly, said officials of the NAACP, which has established a toll-free number (1-866-OUR-VOTE) to report Election Day voting problems.

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