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Justice Department Silent on NY Voting Rights Request

October 21, 2008

New York, NY - A New York civil rights group says the Department of Justice has failed to act on its request for federal poll monitors during this presidential election. Latino Justice put the federal government on notice last week about concerns Latino votes will be suppressed on Election Day, especially in key swing states where experts have suggested Latinos could cast the decisive vote.

Cesar Perales with Latino Justice says the response from the government has been silence.

"Their job is to protect voters. The fact that they have not put in place any particular program to protect Latino voters is disappointing; it has forced us to set up our own method of monitoring the elections."

Voter suppression is happening, according to Columbia University Political Science professor Lorraine Minnite, who has testified before Congress many times about voter rights. She says ugly racial overtones are involved this election.

"The story about vote suppression, which is actually quite old in the United States, is not well known. We are seeing it, in a kind of vivid Technicolor, in this election."

Latino Justice is concerned that states will use minor differences in the way names appear on different databases, and even home foreclosure notices, as ways to suppress Latino votes.

Perales says his group is setting up a special hotline today that will have 40 Spanish-speaking lawyers on standby to take calls from any voter who has trouble with registration or at the polls. The hotline number is 888-839-8362.

The Department of Justice did not respond to our request for comment on this story.

Michael Clifford/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY