Volunteers to monitor poll sites
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 26, 2004 12:00 AM
Elvia Díaz
Nearly 1,000 volunteers will monitor heavily Latino and African-American
polling places next Tuesday in an effort to prevent Arizona's largest
minority groups from being intimidated when they vote.

Wearing a black or red T-shirt that says "You have the right to vote," 791
volunteers will monitor 145 precincts in Maricopa and Pima counties. At the
same time, more than 200 lawyers will be ready at a command center to answer
questions that may arise at the polls.

"We're not expecting any kind of disaster on Election Day, but we want to be
ready," said Doug Ramsey, spokesman for Arizona Election Protection, a
coalition arranging the poll monitoring in Arizona and several other states.

Ramsey and Latino leaders said the independent observers are necessary in
part because there are 470,209 new voters this year in Arizona. The
Secretary of State's Office doesn't indicate how many of Arizona's 2.6
million voters are minorities.

There were 304,000 Arizona Latinos registered to vote in the 2000
presidential election, according to the National Association of Latino
Elected and Appointed Officials.

That number went up by as much as 100,000 this year partly because of the
massive Hispanic voter registration in the state by groups such as Moving
America Forward Foundation and Project Vote.

Moving America Forward says it registered 55,000 Latinos and Project Vote an
additional 37,000. Other groups also did Hispanic registration.

1st-time voters

"Many Latinos will vote for the first time, and we want that experience to
be a positive one," said Debbie López, director of Arizona Project Vote.

Some Latino leaders believe the tight race for the White House and the
immigration-based Proposition 200 aimed at combating voter and welfare fraud
could prompt people to try to keep minorities from voting.

Some fear intimidation tactics similar to those reported in 1964 when a
squad of Republican lawyers swept through polling places in south Phoenix
questioning the right of some minority voters to cast their ballots.

"The stakes are very high," former state legislator Alfredo Gutierrez said.
"Nobody is going to tolerate that kind of behavior. But there could be
isolated incidents."

No intimidation vowed

Randy Pullen, chairman of the Yes on Proposition 200 group, said nobody
associated with his group will be intimidating anyone. Kathy McKee, the
state director of the effort that put the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot,
didn't return calls for comment Monday.

Secretary of State Jan Brewer said her office has taken the necessary steps
to carry out a smooth election and she won't put up with any intimidation.

"I will not tolerate any shenanigans, threats or any type of voter
intimidation," she said, adding that any complaints would be sent to the
state Attorney General's Office.

Arizona is one of 16 states covered under the Voting Rights Act of 1965,
which prohibits laws that inhibit minority citizens from voting.

Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said there might not be enough bilingual
workers at the polls to help the Spanish-speaking electorate.

"The independent monitors are bilingual and will be able to help
Spanish-speaking voters," Gallardo said.

"Election folks have not done enough to hire bilingual workers."

Bilingual workers hired

Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said her office has hired
560 bilingual workers so far to work at 400 precincts where at least 25
percent of the electorate has Hispanic surnames. Overall, more than 7,000
poll employees will work at the county's 1,058 precincts.

But Gallardo argues that the county is unable to guarantee that the
bilingual workers in fact speak the language.

Osborne said her office relies on the honesty of the worker who assures an
ability to communicate in Spanish or any other language.

Reach the reporter at elvia.diaz@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8948.

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