FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2000
VIP WILL NOT APPEAL JUDGES' DECISION ALLOWING INTERNET PRIMARY TO PROCEED BUT WILL FIGHT ONWARD WITH VOTING RIGHTS ACT CLAIM
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The Voting Integrity Project ("VIP") announced today that it will not appeal Tuesday's decision by U.S District Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt allowing the Arizona Democratic Party to proceed with Internet voting in next week's Arizona Democratic Primary. However, VIP will press forward with its case to prove that Internet voting violates the Voting Rights Act, given the state of the Digital Divide in America today.
The Voting Integrity Project ("VIP") and four Arizona Democratic voters (two African-Americans two Hispanic Americans) filed a voting rights lawsuit on January 21 in federal district court in Phoenix challenging the Arizona Democratic Party's plan to conduct the Arizona Democratic Presidential Primary between March 7 and March 11 using Internet voting.
The lawsuit alleged that Internet voting violates the Voting Rights Act because it provides voting opportunities to some voters but not to all voters. Specifically, the Arizona Democratic Party plan increases the strength of white voters, who on balance have greater access to the Internet, at the expense of African American, Hispanic, and Native American voters, who on balance have less access to the Internet.
According to a recent United States Department of Commerce report on the Digital Divide, whites are more likely to have Internet access from home than African-American and Hispanics 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.
Ruling from the bench after a ten-hour hearing on Tuesday, Judge Rosenblatt accepted VIP's arguments about the Digital Divide, holding at "all of the evidence, this court concludes, leads to that finding." Although the judge recognized that Internet voting "would result in racial discrimination in this election," he decided to let the election go forward, stating that the results could always be thrown out later.
VIP has considered an emergency appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Ninth Circuit but has decided that a decision in VIP's favor would cause too much confusion for Arizona's Democratic voters. "The most important thing to VIP is and has always been that Arizona voters have an election that is open and fair. Asking the Court to cancel the election or make changes to it only a day before it is to begin would not serve that objective," said Deborah Phillips, President of VIP.
Therefore VIP and the other plaintiffs will not file an appeal. Instead, VIP will proceed at the district court level.
Washington, D.C. election lawyer Miller Baker, who is representing the plaintiffs in the suit, expressed optimism that VIP would prevail. "We are confident that once the judge has a chance to carefully examine all of the evidence, he will recognize that the law requires equal access to elections," Baker said.
Deborah M. Phillips, president of The Voting Integrity Project, said that she relished the chance to establish the Digital Divide in court once again. "The voting rights of minority voters in Arizona are too important to give up without a fight," she said.
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 in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Gutierrez v. Ada, in which the Court, on January 19, 2000, ruled 9-0 in favor of Guam Democratic Governor Carl Gutierrez over Republican challenger Joseph Ada. That case involved the issue of whether blank ballots count as votes under a statute requiring a runoff election in the absence of any candidate attaining "a majority of votes cast." The Court's unanimous opinion by Justice Souter drew heavily from the arguments and authorities in VIP's amicus brief in support of Governor Gutierrez. In its amicus brief, VIP argued that blank ballots are not votes and that Governor Gutierrez had been duly elected by a majority of voters participating in Guam's 1998 gubernatorial election.
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.
For Further Information Contact:
M. Miller Baker (202-310-5583 or 703-590-3658)
Michael S. Nadel (202-310-5543 or 703-243-1250)
Timothy J. Casey (602-382-6000)
Copyright © 1998 Voting Integrity Project. All rights reserved.
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