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Action Alert: Racial Justice and The 2004 Election

by elmira Nazombe and Carol Barton



United Methodist Women in the United States are proud of being a part of a racially and culturally diverse movement and church. The Charter for Racial Justice Policies reminds us that our strength lies in this diversity and that we must work toward a world in which each person ’s value is respected and nurtured. For many years, particularly since the civil rights movement of the 1960 ’s, the faith community has made voter registration activities a priority. 2004 provides opportunity to broaden the important work of helping to expand political participation in the election process by working to help ensure that once registered, citizens actually get to vote and that their vote is counted.

Because we believe…that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ…We will unite our efforts with all groups in the United Methodist Church…to support nomination and election processes which include all racial groups…” United Methodist Charter for Racial Justice Policies

Is not this then fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6)


  • The US Civil Rights Commission reported that in the 2000 US Presidential election in Florida, black voters were nearly ten times more likely than non-black voters to have their ballots rejected. While African Americans made up 11% of the population, the represented more than 50% of the spoiled ballots in Florida in the November 2000 election. 1

While interpretation and translated ballots are required by the Voting Rights Act in some precincts, Chinese and Korean voters in New York in the 2002 elections found that polling sites had few or no interpreters, ballots were mis-translated, and many of their voter registration forms had been mishandled or lost, meaning they could not vote. 2

  • The 2000 elections in Florida disproportionately excluded Puerto Rican and other Latino voters, according the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, due to lack of language assistance, harassment, and confusion about identification requirements. 3
  • South Dakota officials are investigating complaints from voters—primarily from counties in which Indian reservations are located—that they were not allowed to vote in the June 2004 primary when they could not produce a photo ID – now required for all South Dakota voters. While poll workers were required to offer such voters affidavit ballots, many were simply turned away. 4
Even if voters use an affidavit ballot, there is racial disparity in which of these ballots get counted. If there is a question about someone’s registration, they must be allowed to case a provisional ballot. However, in the 2004 primary elections in Chicago, 93% of provisional ballots were thrown out. Districts with a high percentage of minority groups had a higher rate of rejection of these ballots than predominantly white districts. 5

These experiences have led to serious questioning of the electoral process by members of minority groups and a loss of confidence in the ability of U.S. election processes to operate fairly for all citizens.

In 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. 6 The purpose of the Act was to correct some of the problems revealed in the 2000 presidential election, but lack of understanding of new rules could open the door for new problems. The bill addresses issues of:

  • New voter identification requirements
  • Provisional ballots for voters whose names are not on the role
  • Opportunities for voters to correct ballot errors
  • Disability assistance
  • Language assistance as required by the Voting Rights Act
  • Programs for volunteer college and high school student poll workers and assistants

United Methodist Women can be a part of making the promise of the new legislation a reality as well as documenting areas of continuing problems. It is an opportunity to stand together as United Methodist Women of diverse races and cultures united in working to secure full political participation for all of us.


  • Register to Vote or if you are already registered check to make sure your name is on the voting roll.

Vote on November 2nd and take five friends to the polls with you.

  • Prepare Yourself. Get more information from the list of resources attached, to learn about some of the new requirements of the Help Americans Vote Act.
  • Contact your local Board of Elections to find out what measures they have taken to comply with the provisions of: The Voting Rights Act including Section 203 on Language Minorities and the Help America Vote Act. Share this information with the press and others in the community.
Volunteer! Educate yourself and receive training to act as a volunteer non-partisan election monitor. You can join the efforts of minority organizations in your community to monitor the elections to ensure that every vote counts. If you are bilingual, volunteer to serve as a translator/interpreter for voters with limited fluency in English.
Encourage United Methodist college and high school students to volunteer to serve as poll workers and assistants.


For General Information: Contact elmira Nazombe and Carol Barton, Racial Justice Office: 212-870-3732, 475 Riverside Drive, Rm. 1502, New York, NY 10115 enazombe@gbgm-umc.org or cbarton@gbgm-umc.org., or Magda Morales, MagdaEMP@aol.com.

To Order Resource Materials:

  • Lists of Language Minority Districts covered by the Voting Rights Act

Background information on Voting Rights legislation

  • References for reports on Voting Problems
  • A guide to questions to ask your Election Commission
  • A “how to” for election monitoring
  • A report form to send to the Women’s Division as a contribution to a report of UMW activities on racial justice and the 2004 election

To order a copy, contact Mae Reed at 212-870-3732, ;
475 Riverside Drive, Rm. 1502, New York, NY 10040.


Background Information on Voting Rights Laws:


Election Reform: Summary of the Help America Vote Act
Common Cause, 1250 Connecticut Avenue NW #600, Washington DC 20036, 202-833-1200,


Minority Language Citizen – Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Voting Section,
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW-NWB, Washington DC 20530, Phone: 202-307-2767,


Advocacy Guide to the Help America Vote Act
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; 1629 K Street NW 10th Floor, Washington D.C. 20006;

Groups Working on Voter Issues
Racial and Ethnic Groups


Count Every Vote 2004 coalition of church, labor and community groups working on African American vote issues vote2004.org;
175 Trinity Ave., Atlanta, GA 30303, 404-653-1147, www.counteveryvote2004.org


NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund – resource material on the Help America Vote Act and the Voting Rights Act,
99 Hudson Street, Suite 1600, New York, NY 10013, 212-965-2200


Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund – report on Asian American Experience in the 2002 elections in New York City and other voting issues,
99 Hudson Street, 12th floor, New York, New York 10013 212-966-5932, 212-966-4303 www.aaldef.org 

Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund – resources on voting and redistricting issues,
99 Hudson Street, 14th Floor, New York, New York 10013,             
Southwest Voter Registration Project – goal of mobilization of 2 million new Latino voters, 1-800-404-VOTE, www.svrep.org
Native Vote 2004-Every Vote Counts – national get-out-the-vote initiative of National Congress of American Indians,
issue, registration and training information. www.ncai.org/nativevote. NCAI 202-466-7767

General Voter and Political Participation Advocacy Groups


DEMOS – Research and Advocacy Group – state by state information on voter registration, voting, language access etc.,
220 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, New York 10027, 212-633-1405


League of Women Voters – voter registration and issue information state by state
1730 M Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC 20036, 202-439-1965


Racism Watch 2004 – multi-cultural network of activists –resources on issues and right to vote;
P.O. Box 1041, Bloomfield NJ 07003, 973-328-5398

Faith-based Groups


Let Justice Roll – national initiative of public events on poverty, election issues and vote mobilization by National Council of Churches USA & Center for Community Change; Paul Sherry, Poverty Mobilization Coordinator, Justice Roll, NCCUSA, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 100115,


Faithful America – online non-partisan advocacy ministry of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA
(UMC participating ) – voter registration and issue  resources


Faithful Democracy – interfaith civic participation initiative, faith-based voter registration groups by state www.faithfuldemocracy.org (UMC participating)


Pax Christi Florida – Catholic peace movement organizing teams of national and international election monitors for Florida 2004 election www.pcfla.org/electio

1 US Commission on Civil Rights, Voting Irregularities in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election, June 2001   (www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2000/report/exesum.htm).

2Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2002 Elections in NYC, September  2003, (www.aaldef.org)

3Juan Figueroa, President, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, testimony at Congressional Black Caucus on Voter  Irregularities and Voter Reform (www.prldef.org).

4Identity Politics, Tova Andrea Wang of the Century Foundation, in The Nation, August 16-23, 2004, p. 18 (www.tcf.org).

5?A Rule to Avert Balloting Woes Adds to Them,? New York Times, August 6, 2004

6For a summary, see Common Cause, www.commoncause.org.

Click here to download this Action Alert bulletin in PDF form.

Date posted: Sep 23, 2004