LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The following letter was sent last night (October 26, 2004) to President George W. Bush, via facsimile, e-mail and mail by the Presidents of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Hispanic Federation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The original letter sent to President Bush was signed by each of the organization's representatives.
[Text of letter]: Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to bring to your attention a matter of grave importance to the successful outcome of this year's presidential election. While America's servicemen carry out your directive to bring democracy to the people of Iraq, their relatives, friends and neighbors may be culled from the voter rolls and scared away from polling places here at home. Mr. President, your urgent attention is needed to ensure a fair and open election here in America.
We are sure you will agree the foundation of our democracy lies in our country's ability to elect its leaders, free from coercion and intimidation, in an orderly and peaceful manner. In the Latino community, however, the fear of intimidation has never been far. Sadly, this year's presidential election may serve to demonstrate how far we have yet to go.
Despite the gains made over these past decades, there is mounting evidence that lawyers aligned with the Republican Party may be taking steps to intimidate voters who go to the polls on November 2nd. Specifically, the New York Times reported this past Saturday that nearly 4,000 lawyers stand ready to challenge voters at the polls in Ohio. We believe their intention to stop voter fraud is misguided. It is our understanding these lawyers will have the ability to challenge the qualifications of a voter. Among the grounds cited is citizenship. We have experienced this treatment before. In previous similar such episodes only voters with darker skin color and Spanish or Asian surnames were challenged. A chilling atmosphere of intimidation at the polling places deterred duly qualified citizens from voting!
In 1989, members of the Republican Party in Orange County, California, working for the campaign of then-GOP state assembly candidate Curt Pringle, hired uniformed security guards to be posted at polling places in heavily Latino precincts. The GOP operatives claimed they acted on rumors that there was illegal registration of voters. However, they later admitted they had no evidence of such activity and were concerned because of a sudden surge in voter registration in some Latino neighborhoods.
On the eve of arguably the most important election of our lifetime, lawyers from your own party are apparently content to replay this sad and malicious chapter in voting in states around the country.
In 1965, the federal government adopted the Voting Rights Act to ensure fair and equal access for all Citizens to the voting process. Many times since its adoption, the intent of the Act has been challenged. How can we, as a beacon of democracy for the world, have credibility on the issue of fair and open elections when a portion of our citizenry stands prepared to intimidate and frighten others from performing their most important civic obligation -- casting their ballot to decide their leader?
Mr. President, as the standard bearer for the Republican Party, we respectfully request that you take immediate action to stop these anti-democratic activities contemplated by your party's representatives. Direct your Party's representatives to step aside and allow for this year's elections to take place unfettered from the reprehensible act of voter intimidation.
Your call for open elections in Iraq is a central goal of your Administration and the lynchpin in your efforts to bring democracy to the people of Iraq. But before we can have credibility on this issue with the rest of the world, we must first demonstrate our ability to conduct fair and open elections here at home, free of voter intimidation.
Thank you in advance for your urgent attention to this matter. Sincerely, Antonio Gonzalez, President, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) Ann Marie Tallman, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, President, Hispanic Federation Milton Rosado, National President, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Hector Flores, President, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)Presidents of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project