October 14, 2004 in City

Democrats allegedly discouraged from registering

Kirsten Searer Las Vegas Sun
 

LAS VEGAS – Questions are surfacing about a group – financed in part by the Republican National Committee – that is accused of trying to stop Democrats from registering to vote.

Voters Outreach of America, sometimes called America Votes, registered voters in both Reno and Las Vegas in recent weeks on behalf of the RNC.

Democratic groups have complained for weeks that canvassers working for Voters Outreach have turned away Democrats who want to register, sometimes telling people they are only paid to register Republicans.

And, on Tuesday night, a Las Vegas television station reported that a former employee of the company, Eric Russell, registered Las Vegas residents in both parties, but his boss hassled him when he tried to submit Democratic forms.

“We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us,” Russell told Channel 8. “I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assistant to get those from me.”

Voters Outreach could not be reached for comment.

Russell gave a few of the destroyed forms to Channel 8, which verified that the voters were not registered.

Yier Shi, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, confirmed that Voters Outreach of America contracts with the RNC to register voters in the final weeks before the election.

However, he said, the RNC does not encourage the company to destroy forms from Democrats. Republican party officials in each state typically check in randomly with the group to ensure it is operating on the up-and-up, Shi said.

“We put in mechanisms to check for fraud and legal training for those who we hire,” Shi said. “Anybody who’s found to have acted inappropriately is fired.”

The RNC put out a statement this morning that said it had a “zero-tolerance policy for anything that smacks of impropriety” and said anyone participating in voter fraud should be prosecuted.

According to Nevada law, people can be hired to circulate voter registration forms, but they cannot be paid by the form.

The state law clearly states that county clerks and other official government agencies cannot refuse to register someone because of their party affiliation. But the rules are looser for nongovernmental employees who register voters, said Dan Burk, the Washoe County (Nev.) registrar.


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