ACLU, African American Voters Raise Concerns About Discriminatory Practices in Crisfield Election

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
June 21, 2010 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Maryland
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CONTACT: 410-889-8555;

CRISFIELD, MD ­ Concerned that improper and illegal election procedures may have been used in last week’s election in the City of Crisfield, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, on behalf of Mayoral candidate James Lane and several African American voters in Crisfield, has written to the local election board asking for it to conduct an investigation into the procedures used. The letter details a number of alleged irregularities ­ including unlawful voter identification requirements and the failure to offer rejected voters a provisional ballot ­ which appear to have disproportionately affected African American voters.

“We have questions about why certain voters were targeted to show identification, as well as about other troubling election practices that call into question the fairness and legality of the Crisfield election,” said Deborah Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland.

The letter, which was also sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, alleges election irregularities:

  • Witnesses attest that many prospective voters were unlawfully required to produce identification in order to cast a ballot in this election, and that those who could not produce identification, or whose identification was deemed insufficient by election officials, were turned away from the polls. Voter ID laws have been consistently rejected in Maryland, because they disproportionately affect poor, minority, and elderly voters.
  • In addition, the identification requirement is alleged to have been enforced unevenly and in a racially discriminatory manner, such that more African American voters than white voters were required to produce identification, and more African American voters were turned away from the polls for lack of identification or inadequate identification.
  • Witnesses also allege that African Americans who had been newly registered to vote by supporters of African-American candidate James Lane were targeted for identification challenges and with intimidation tactics such as having their pictures taken. It is alleged that African Americans who live in public housing were one particular focus of this disparate treatment.
  • Additionally, we are told that individuals who were rejected at the polls on identification grounds were not uniformly offered provisional ballots, as the law requires. We understand that at some point a poll watcher began urging election officials to offer rejected voters a provisional ballot, but we cannot know how many voters were turned away without that opportunity. It is also our understanding that the majority of voters who cast their ballots provisionally were African American ­ which reinforces concerns that a majority of those challenged and of those turned away by election officials may have been African American as well.

The letter was drafted by Deborah Jeon and Ajmel Quereshi from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

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