The unprecedented voting rights mobilization undertaken by the Election Protection coalition helped millions of Americans exercise their fundamental right to vote in 2004. In addition to its direct service to voters, the Election Protection Coalition successfully collected data on the myriad of problems inherent in our electoral system and has begun to create, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of the barriers that voters face as they go to the polls. Unfortunately, we have documented systemic problems that resulted in the widespread disenfranchisement of American voters. These unacceptable barriers to voting betray our nation's democratic principles and undermine the fairness of our elections. The rush of relief led by pundits and politicians that the presidential campaign did not extend into a long post-election legal contest must not be permitted to disguise the urgent need for systematic reforms at the national, state, and local levels.
This preliminary summary provides an initial view of the types of reports and problems experienced by the Election Protection Coalition during the 2004 Presidential Election Cycle. To date more than 39,000 complaints have been recorded in the Electronic Incident Reporting System (EIRS) database with thousands more still be added. These problems must be analyzed, publicized, and remedied. The margin of victory in the Presidential election led to the popular misconception that the election went smoothly; this summary aims to address that misconception by highlighting the problems voters across the nation encountered and gives voice to the disturbingly large number of citizens who were unable to cast a ballot because of obstacles to the ballot box.
The complaints reviewed were captured in the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS), a database of complaints and incidents recorded through the activities of the Election Protection Coalition. In 2005 Election Protection will release a comprehensive report of the data gathered through EIRS. We will work with both statistical and social science professionals to create a thorough analysis of the barriers Americans face throughout the voting process. In addition to the data collected through the Election Protection Program, the final report will reflect information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews and hearings with voters and election officials across the country.