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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 14, 2004

UI Law Students To Serve As Election Monitors In Missouri

A group of University of Iowa law school students will serve as election monitors in minority communities as part of a national effort to ensure this year's elections are free from irregularities and guarantee that everyone who is eligible can vote.

The effort, Election Protection, hopes to train more than 4,000 students from U.S. law schools as election monitors, said Michelle Roddy, a third-year law student who is organizing participants at the UI College of Law. She said the UI students will be sent to monitor voting locations in St. Louis, Mo., a city that has a large minority community and a history of voting irregularities.

A training session for people who are interested in volunteering as poll monitors will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24 in Room 225 of the Boyd Law Building. Roddy said anyone is invited to attend and travel to Missouri as a monitor.

"Election Protection legal volunteers will be trained on state voting laws, voters' rights, the most likely problems that voters will encounter in their state, and what sort of legal remedy is needed," Roddy said. After learning about local election law, participants will stand outside their assigned polling place wearing t-shirts that identify them as part of the group. The monitors will distribute a Voters of Bill of Rights handbook to voters and make sure the polling place is open during its designated hours. The organization will also staff a national telephone hotline that monitors can call if they witness or are alerted to any potential difficulties.

She expects about 15 to 30 UI law students to volunteer.

Roddy said a poll monitoring system is needed because of a history of voting irregularities in recent elections, and not just in Florida in 2000. She points to Arizona, where American Indians have been told that they will not be able to vote unless they can sign their name on a voter registration application, although there is no such requirement in the law, or Baltimore, where brochures have been distributed to African-Americans implying they may face legal action if they have unpaid parking tickets or overdue rent when they vote.

She said St. Louis is targeted because inoperative voting machines there resulted in 4,000 ballots not being counted in 2000.

"Unless tens of thousands of volunteers stand up and protect voting rights, minority voters will once again face disenfranchisement at the polls due to illegal disqualification, intimidation and faulty voting machines," she said.

The non-partisan Election Protection organization is sponsored by such groups as the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association, People for the American Way, the Lawyers' Committee and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.