Latino Justice to Monitor Elections in Florida


Latino Justice will be monitoring the Florida presidential elections. Latino Justice President Juan Cartagena is pictured in an earlier photo relating to the Voting Rights Act. /Latino Justice

Gearing up for the November elections, the civil rights legal organization Latino Justice has put out a call to lawyers in Florida and four other states to assist in voter protection by agreeing to monitor polling stations on election day.

The initiative, titled Cada Voto Cuenta (Every Vote Counts), was launched this week in cada-voto-cuenta-logoFlorida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New York.

At least three of the states – Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania – are considered to be swing states, where the election results can go either Republican or Democrat. Georgia, normally a reliably Republican state, is considered to be in play for the first time in years.

With the exception of North Carolina, all of the states have a heavy Hispanic presence. For instance, one of every four people in Florida is a Latino.

The Puerto Rican Bar

The Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida, headed by Orlando attorney Anthony Suárez, quickly circulated the flyer among members.

“… As attorneys be ready to stand up for voters who may be denied access to vote due to some interpretation of the election law,” Suárez wrote in an email. “This is an important role that we can play insuring the access to vote. Florida has a legacy of attempts to restrict voting.”

Among the primary concerns is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s own call last month for volunteers to monitor the polling stations.

“I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the eighth [but] go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine,” Trump said at a Pennsylvania rally in August.  “We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study, make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

Suárez of the Puerto Rican Bar Association counters that “when candidates are calling for ‘poll watchers’ so that the election is not stolen from them, it is important to insure there is no violation of law prohibiting or intimidating voters.”

Voter Fraud Is ‘Insignificant’

In actuality, the incidence of voter fraud is so low as to be insignificant. A 2007 study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice titled, “The Truth about Voter Fraud,” indicates voter fraud is significantly less than 1 percent.

“We are aware of public sources substantiating only two cases [in Florida and New York], yielding an overall documented fraud rate of 0.000009%,” according to the study, which cited the Florida Division of Elections and the New York State Board of Elections in a case involving people who voted in both states between 2002 and 2004.

More likely, so-called voter fraud is due to errors in poll books, registration records, underlying data, partial name matches and birth date problems, according to the study.

Still, the elections landscape is fraught with attempts to control who votes via voter purges – Florida has had two infamous cases, in 2000 and once under Gov. Rick Scott, in which the purge lists were riddled with errors. In addition,  onerous voter ID requirements have become more frequent. In 2014 a  court stuck down a overly restrictive vote ID law case in Pennsylvania, stating it was unconstitutional.

Bilingual Lawyers

It’s unclear how many lawyers will answer the Latino Justice call for help, but the organization is looking for bilingual attorneys to “monitor polling locations, and identify issues confronting voters, including language access and disability access.”

The volunteers must attend a two-hour webinar class and sign up for at least one four-hour shift, more if possible.

Latino Justice is no stranger to Florida. In 2014, Latino Justice unsuccessfully sued Orange County over its electoral redistricting.

Read more about Cada Voto Cuena here.

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