January 21, 2000
The Voting Integrity Project
PO Box 6470
Arlington VA 22206-0470
(888) 578-4343 toll-free
(978) 945-5688 fax
Embargoed until 11 am Eastern Contact:
Deborah M Phillips (888) 578-4343
M Miller Baker (202) 310-5583
Timothy J Casey (602) 382-6231
Hans von Spakovsky (404) 851-9834
Kelley Wilson (202) 607-3030
Larry Hart (202) 261-2168
VIP FILES VOTING RIGHTS LAWSUIT TO BLOCK INTERNET VOTING IN AZ DEM PRIMARY
Phoenix, Arizona -- The Voting Integrity Project ("VIP") and two Arizona Democratic voters (one African American man and one Hispanic American woman) filed a voting rights lawsuit today in federal district court in Phoenix challenging the Arizona Democratic Party's plan to conduct their presidential primary utilizing remote on-line Internet voting.
According to Deborah M. Phillips, President of VIP, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to block the use of Internet voting in the primary on the grounds that it unfairly discriminates against African-American, Native-American, and Hispanic voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Phillips said that "Internet voting, however well-intentioned, is not secure from fraud and is grossly unfair to persons without Internet access. This is just a new millennium version of the literacy test."
Under the plan announced by the Arizona Democratic Party, voters with Internet access will have four full days, twenty-four hours a day, (March 7, 8, 9, and 10) to vote early in the convenience of their homes or place of employment. In contrast, voters without Internet access will not be permitted to vote until March 11, when such voters must travel to one of approximately 50 polling places and vote in person between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. State-wide elections administered by the State of Arizona, in contrast, utilize over 2000 community polling places.
According to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce report on the "digital divide," whites are more likely to have Internet access from home than most racial and ethnic minorities from any location, including home, work, school, or library. Only 19% of African-Americans and 16% of Hispanics have Internet access from any location, compared to 38% of whites. Taken together, African-American and Hispanic households are only 40% as likely as white households to have home Internet access. Native-American households are even less likely than African-American and Hispanic households to have home Internet access. VIP's lawsuit alleges that as a consequence of these statistics, the Internet voting system planned for the Arizona Democratic Presidential Primary will have the effect of maximizing affluent white participation relative to non-whites in the primary in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Arizona Democratic Party cannot administer an Internet voting system until that system has been pre-cleared by the United States Department of Justice. Under the Voting Rights Act, Arizona is one of several states in which changes in election procedures must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department before such changes can take effect. Under a 1996 United States Supreme Court decision, political parties in covered states are subject to this pre-clearance requirement for any election system administered by a political party.
VIP is a non-partisan, non-profit, public interest organization based in Arlington, Virginia, dedicated to promoting the integrity of American elections and protecting the fundamental right to vote. Its most recent election law accomplishment was the unanimous decision of United States Supreme Court on January 19, 2000 in the case of Gutierrez v. Ada, which drew heavily on VIP's amicus brief. That case involved the issue of whether blank ballots count as votes and the Court ruled that Guam Governor Gutierrez, a Democrat, had been duly elected in November 1998 and did not have to face a Republican challenger in a runoff.
VIP and the other plaintiffs in the Arizona lawsuit are represented by Washington, D.C. election lawyer M. Miller Baker of the firm of Carr Goodson Warner and Phoenix election lawyer Timothy J. Casey of the firm of Snell & Wilmer.
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