Sierra Club

Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

For Immediate Release:
October 30, 2008

Contact: David Willett, 202-675-6698

Coalition Calls on Governors to Free State Employees to Assist on Election Day
Unprecedented Turnout Requires Unprecedented Response

As unease increases about possible chaos at the polls next Tuesday, a coalition of labor, environmental, civil rights and consumer organizations has called on the fifty state governors to free non-essential personnel to provide much-needed assistance. In a letter sent by Change to Win, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, People for the American Way, National Partnership for Women and Families, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and others, the coalition urges that public employees be released for training on Monday and then to aid poll workers on Election Day.

"Every voter being able to cast a vote and having that vote count is the foundation of democracy....Voting is a fundamental right..." the letter says. While since the 2000 Florida debacle, election officials across the country have tried to plan for increased turnout, there are already serious indications in the early voting that they may not be up to the task.

"Lines in Ohio seem to reach Indiana" said Change to Win head Anna Berger. "Citizens are being forced to wait several hours just to exercise what is their most basic right as Americans."

"It would be especially scandalous if just as tens of millions of Americans reengaged with our democracy, the system shut them out," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "It has now fallen upon the nation's governors to insure that this does not occur on their watch."

According to the letter, releasing public employees could double the number of check-in tables and cut waiting time at least in half. Government employees deal with the public every day and are better suited than most to act as precinct workers, under the supervision of precinct captains and others. While government office may be understaffed for a day or two, "there is nothing more important than the right to vote" says the letter.

"It is what separates the United States from so many authoritarian governments throughout the world" said Norman Lear of people for the American Way "If we can hold orderly elections in Iraq., we can certainly hold them here at home."

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