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For Immediate Release
October 8, 2002
Contact: Dan A. Gwadosky
207-626-8400

Nation's Secretaries of State Partner with U.S. Justice Department
for New Voting Integrity Initiative

National Program Seeks to Protect Civil Rights of Voters & Curb Election Fraud

WASHINGTON, DC-In order to ensure a positive Election Day experience for all voters, America's chief state election officials will team with the U.S. Justice Department to promote a new outreach partnership called the Voting Integrity Initiative. The program, unveiled today at a meeting of U.S. Attorneys in Washington, D.C., seeks to combat election fraud and civil rights offenses in state and local elections by strengthening relations between representatives of the Department of Justice and state election officials.

"Attorney General John Ashcroft has instructed the nation's U.S. Attorneys to make themselves available to top state election officials, and we are grateful for the additional support and assistance," said NASS President Dan Gwadosky, Maine secretary of state. "While we take the threat of election fraud seriously, we want to emphasize this as a way for election officials to serve voters and protect their civil rights."

Through the Voting Integrity Initiative, the 38 secretaries of state that deal with elections will meet with their respective U.S. Attorney prior to November 5, 2002. They will be responsible for discussing methods for protecting voting rights and preventing election fraud.

State officials will also work with the U.S. Department of Justice to strengthen long-standing Election Day procedures. One item includes establishing a better communications network with the federal prosecutors that receive complaints from voters. In order to improve local outreach, the Justice Department will appoint "district election officers" to field calls from voters and assist them in dealing with grievances. It's the first time the federal government has worked with state officials to appoint local contact points for such matters.

"Historically, state officials have been wary of federal involvement in the elections process," said Ron Thornburgh, Kansas secretary of state and past president of NASS. "However, this approach appears to be more of a helping hand than a heavy hand. It should add to the resources available to voters and election officials."

NASS plans to work with its members to coordinate any training, outreach or communication that will be conducted in partnership with U.S. Department of Justice officials.