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With a large number of newly registered voters expected to flock to the polls on Election Day, CUNY Law students said it is more important than ever to ensure individuals — especially immigrant, minority and poorer voters — are not harassed at polling stations or deterred from casting their ballots.
About 125 CUNY School of Law students who have recently been trained in federal and state voting rights laws will monitor polling stations throughout the city next week in hopes of dissuading any illegal activity by poll workers.
“If you look at the past several elections, there’s a clear pattern of voter disenfranchisement of people of color, poor people and immigrants,” said Bright Limm, a second−year student and president of the CUNY Law student government. “While we can’t make predictions, it’s reasonable to assume the level of voter harassment will be similar or even greater.”
“We’ll be there to let voters know what the law is, and if we see improprieties or unlawful conduct, we will file incident reports,” added Limm, a Korean−American.
Should illegal activity occur — such as poll workers asking people for identification, which is not needed unless the person registered by mail — students will document the occurrence and send the data to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Fund members could then proceed with legal action.
According to AALDEF, the group that trained CUNY students to monitor the polls, immigrants are frequently asked for identification. During the 2004 presidential elections, 23 percent of Asian−American voters surveyed were asked to show identification, 69 percent of whom were not required to do so.
In the past, AALDEF found voters have also been asked to provide proof of citizenship or have been refused language interpreters, which is illegal.
About half of the students will monitor stations in Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, and AALDEF will send the other students to Flushing, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. Students will also be in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
About one−third of the law school students are participating in the monitoring, “which is really amazing,” said Ali Najmi, a Pakistani American who is a third−year CUNY law student.
“The students who brought this movement forward come from immigrant communities and are committed to building a culture of participation,” he added. “The last thing we want is if we can convince someone to show up to the polls to have a hard time at the polls.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300 Ext 174.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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