Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Sedgwick County Voter Coalition delivers a letter to the Board of County Commissioners requesting an increase in voting machines & polling places

The Sedgwick County Voter Coalition is comprised of the following organizations:

Wichita-Metro League of Women Voters, Wichita Chapter of the AARP of Kansas, The Wichita Branch of the American Association of University Women, The Butler Community College Hispanic American Leadership Organization, Church Women United, Democratic Party of Sedgwick County, North High School-Future Latino Leaders of Wichita, Global Learning Center, GOP Club of Sedgwick County, Inter-Faith Ministries, Wichita Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, Kansas Hispanic/Latino Democratic Caucus, Kansas Sunshine Coalition, Kappa Delta Chi Service Sorority Inc., Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, MANA de Wichita,
The Wichita Branch NAACP, NOW, Peace & Social Justice Center, Republican Women of Sedgwick County, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Urban League of Wichita, and the Wichita Machinists Union.

On Monday, August 13th, the coalition delivered a letter to the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners requesting funding in the 2008 budget for for the purchase of additional voting machines and the restration of many of the polling places that were eliminated just last year. The text of the letter follows:


Dear Chairman Unruh,

As final adoption of the 2008 County Budget nears, the Sedgwick County Voter Coalition asks that you take affirmative action to safeguard the constitutional rights of Sedgwick County voters by approving full or partial funding of our request for monies to restore poll sites throughout the county.
The recommendation by the Budget Office to deny our request follows the Election Office in placing too much faith in advance voting to avert a repeat of the lengthy peak voting hour delays and accompanying disenfranchisement at the polls on Election Day that we observed last November. While we support advance voting, General Election voting behavior patterns to date suggest that the great majority of voters prefer to vote in-person at their precinct polling place on Election Day after all campaigning has ended.
We contend that the Election Office’s goal of having 50% of all votes cast by advance voting next November is unrealistic. This goal represents a nearly 100% increase in advance voting over the percentage of all votes cast in advance last November. Yet, neither the Election Office nor the Budget Office provide any evidence that such a fantastic goal is achievable, especially if the only marketing strategy to be employed is direct mailings and the only resources earmarked for marketing advance voting is the Election Office’s $25,000 supplemental request. Coalition members who are marketing experts have made it clear to us that postage for just one postcard (even assuming bulk rate) sent to all registered voters would eat up the entire $25,000. Such a limited investment cannot achieve the radical transformation in how and when voters cast their ballots that the Election Office is depending on in order to avert an electoral meltdown next November.
If no restorative action is taken, we can say the following about next November’s election:
Historically, at least 81% of registered voters in Sedgwick County (or over 188,000) will turnout for Presidential General Elections. This means that more than 70,000 additional voters will show up at the polls over the turnout we saw for the 2006 General Election.
The 70% reduction in poll sites in 2006 means that voters will encounter poll sites with a median of 4,122 assigned registered voters (4,363 within Wichita). Fully 73% of the poll sites within Wichita will have more than 4,000 assigned registered voters; 21% will have more than 5,000.
Voters in disadvantaged central urban areas—which have seen some of the most dramatic reductions in neighborhood poll sites—who have transportation difficulties will be discouraged from participating. The same will be true of voters living at the Timbers, a housing complex for persons with disabilities, who saw the poll site across from their facility closed in 2006.
Given this, the coalition contends that our supplemental budget request is a necessary corrective measure to prevent voter disenfranchisement, ensure voter access, and restore voter confidence.
The benefits of restoring poll sites and adding more voting machines before the 2008 Presidential election will help safeguard the constitutional rights of Sedgwick County voters. Please help us ensure that every voter has an equal opportunity to vote in our neighborhoods and communities.

The letter is signed by Betty Ladwig and Ernestine Kreibel; co-chairs of the Sedgwick County Voter Coalition....

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