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CAIR-NY, Civic Engagement Groups Seek NYS Attorney General Probe of Voter Suppression Targeting Muslim Absentee Ballots

(NEW YORK, NY, 8/31/2020) — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today requested an investigation by the office of the New York State Attorney General into potential voter suppression targeting Muslim absentee ballots in the June 2020 primary elections of Lackawanna, Erie County.  

The investigation was sought after it was discovered that of the more than 200 absentee ballots with filed objections, all but one had an overtly Muslim/Middle Eastern sounding name. The voters were not informed of the objection to their ballot, but a list of the names was exposed through a Freedom of Information request filed with the Erie County Board of Elections by attorney Peter A. Reese. Within one hour of filing the request, the objections were withdrawn.  

In a statement, CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher stated:  

“To disqualify the votes of hundreds of eligible citizens is the worst danger to our democracy that can be imagined. Regardless of religion or race, every eligible vote is crucial to preserving the legitimacy of our government. Disenfranchising certain populations is an abhorrent practice victimizing marginalized communities to censor their voice and stunt their political power — but we will not be silenced. We ask Attorney General Letitia James to scrutinize the reasons behind the apparent targeting of Muslim absentee ballots in Lackawanna. Our upcoming federal elections require the utmost confidence in our election systems and that requires transparency from our Board of Elections, and equity for every voter.”  

Other civic engagement organizations have also joined the call for an investigation.  

Voters Organized to Inspire Civic Engagement (VOICE) Board Member Anise Saif added:  

“It is very sad and dangerous when so called leaders in the party and board of election commissioners try to manipulate the outcome of an election and undermine the voice of the people.”  

Amira Muflahi, an organizer with VOICE stated:   

“Disenfranchising voters by discretely rejecting absentee ballots is abhorrent and a threat to democracy. Voter suppression is alive and well in Lackawanna, NY and we will fight against it. We try to preserve and safeguard the unalienable rights of our citizens by assisting them at the polls, but how can we protect their right when ballots are being thrown out behind the scenes with no regard? Voting is the core fundamental to our freedom and any impediment to it is unconscionable and un-American!”  

Brenda W. McDuffle, of the Buffalo Urban League said:   

“We are outraged by any actions or attempt to deny the right to vote! We strive every day to ensure the right to vote for all Americans and will not allow anyone to take away anyone’s participation in our democracy. The Buffalo Urban League joins others across the State urging New York State Attorney General Leticia James to fully investigate any acts to deny anyone their right to vote anytime and anywhere. As Covid -19 continues to impact our community and communities across our country, whether individuals choose to vote using absentee ballot, vote by mail or vote in person, we must be assured that their vote will be counted.  Denying or suppressing the vote is a direct threat to our democracy that together we will fight.”  

Michael Quackenbush of the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance added:  

“We’ve always known that the voter fraud trope is false, that it is not who votes that counts, but rather who counts the votes. Vigilance helps, but without adequate penalties for interference in voting there’s insufficient motive for honesty.”  

It is notable that just over a week ago, Governor Cuomo signed various voter reform bills, including a version of a NYS Bill S8370B which provides protections to absentee voters whose ballots are in danger of disqualification.  


SEE: NY Gov Oks Clerical Fixes on Mail-In Ballots

CAIR-NY’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.  

La misión de CAIR-NY es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.  


CONTACT: CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher, Esq.,, 917-669-4006; Peter A. Reese, Esq.,, 716-870-5450 

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