U.S. National - AP
Dems, GOP Focus on Voter Rights Tue Oct 8, 5:47 PM ET By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats say they'll be monitoring polling places around the country, and especially in Florida, to make sure that all people entitled to vote get to cast their ballots on Nov. 5. Republicans say they'll also be watching for vote fraud.
Democratic national Chairman Terry McAuliffe said he's asking the Justice Department (news - web sites) to send poll monitors to every county in Florida because of the problems that occurred in the 2000 presidential election and again in the Democratic primary for governor Sept. 10.
He criticized Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, younger brother of President Bush (news - web sites), for the continuing problems.
"Jeb Bush is the governor of the state of Florida, he is in charge of all 67 counties, and we will only hold the governor to his own words," McAuliffe said. Bush had said his state would become a positive election example "and less than two years later they become a laughingstock," the Democrat said.
Bush campaign spokesman Todd Harris said the governor should not be held accountable for problems in two of 67 counties.
"The only people in the nation who believe it is the governor's job to turn on the lights at 7 a.m. at every polling location seem to be Terry McAuliffe and the members of the Democratic National Committee (news - web sites)," Harris said.
Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said he was not aware of any McAuliffe request for poll monitoring.
Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) is beginning a pre-election effort directing federal prosecutors across the country to coordinate with state officials to prevent election fraud and voting rights violations.
McAuliffe said bipartisan legislation on election changes could help resolve many problems in the long run, but he said they will not take effect by this election.
"What we have instead of reform is this patchwork of different laws, different standards and different systems," he said. "No consistency, no uniformity, no rhyme or reason."
He said the Democratic Party would help monitor the elections around the country because many systems have not been upgraded after widespread problems in 2000. Democrats are setting up a hotline to give voters help if they have trouble.
The effort will be led by the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, led by longtime party activist Donna Brazile. The institute held hearings to gather information about voting rights violations and worked in New Jersey and Virginia to help voters with problems.
"How do you motivate eligible voters to participate in the political process when they have no confidence in our voting system?" she asked, noting the Democrats' effort will attempt to allay any fears.
Republican national spokesman Jim Dyke said, "If Democrats are focusing on getting people to the polls and making sure the law is followed, we think that's a positive development."
But Dyke said one of the problems to watch closely on Election Day is duplicate registration and voting.
"It's important to note that we've completed ... cleaning up our voter file and found 722,205 duplicate registrations around the country," Dyke said. He said the Republicans found several thousand duplicate votes.
"With that many duplicate registrations," he said, "it will be helpful to have Democrats as well as Republicans to make sure everybody who wants to vote can - and only once."