Civil rights leaders impatient with the pace and scope of election reform legislation in state capitals and in Washington have announced they will begin issuing "report cards" to hold officials accountable.
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond announced the campaign Monday (7/9) at the organization's annual convention in New Orleans.
"It will help you hold accountability sessions with your governor, legislators and other elected officials to find out what they have done to guarantee every vote is counted in the future," Bond said. "And in the fall, we're going to issue a report card on their progress. We'll see who gets A's' and who gets F's.'"
NAACP leaders have led the charge for a standardized, federal system of voting since the 2000 presidential election. The organization recently backed legislation by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich..
That legislation - unpopular with state officials but a hit with civil and disability rights groups - would establish federal standards for machines and registration procedures.Nearly all state officials want to retain their authority over election administration and have denounced a "one-size-fits-all" national standard for voting.
A report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released in June reported that black voters in Florida were far more likely to have their votes thrown out than white voters. More recent data from the minority staff of the House Government Reform Committee indicates the problem of disproportionate numbers of spoiled ballots from poor and high-minority congressional districts is not limited to the Sunshine State.
Bond said after receiving Election Day calls of threats, barriers, inept poll workers and police intimidation, the NAACP also filed a host of lawsuits in Florida and a handful of other states to "ensure that these outrageous events never, ever happen again."
In other election reform news:
The National Council of State Legislature's Election Reform Task Force met in Washington this week (July 9-11) to put the finishing touches on its six-month look into what needs fixing in the nation's voting and more importantly for the group why the federal government should stay out of the election business. Task force leaders Martin Stevens, Utah's Republican Speaker of the House, and Rep. Dan Blue, a Democrat from North Carolina, appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics" to push their group's views on election reform and warn against heavy-handed legislation from Congress that would establish federal mandates for voting. "States have been conducting elections, states are the major administrative units that conduct elections, and we've been doing it for over 200 years, pretty successfully, I might add," Blue said. "To mandate what states ought to do with elections without taking into account the experiences that states have, the different approaches that they can take...is to fly in the face of reality."
The National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State will meet for a weekend conference in Little Rock, Ark. beginning Friday (7/13) to share ideas about best election practices and compare new election reform laws passed in their legislatures over the past seven months.