(NEW YORK, N.Y., 10/5/2020) – The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, along with Voters Organized to Inspire Civic Engagement (VOICE) and Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance, today welcomed the opening of 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.
CAIR-NY said the investigation seeks to probe the apparent objection filed for more than 200 absentee ballots, all of which, with the exception of one, had overtly Muslim and Middle Eastern-sounding names.
The list of Muslim names was revealed through a Freedom of Information request by attorney Peter A. Reese, which prompted the objections to be immediately withdrawn. In response, CAIR-NY, along with civic engagement and civil rights organizations, requested an investigation to be conducted by the office of the NYS Attorney General on August 31st, 2020. The organizations sought clarity into the reasons for the objections and an investigation of potential voter suppression of Muslim ballots.
On Thursday, October 1st, 2020, the Civil Rights Department of the Attorney General’s office confirmed an investigation is underway.
SEE: CAIR-NY, NYCLU and Civic Engagement Groups Seek NYS Attorney General Probe of Voter Suppression Targeting Muslim Absentee Ballots
In a statement, CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said:
“CAIR-NY is pleased with the decision of the NYS Attorney General to pursue an investigation of Muslim voter suppression in Erie County. We are eager to learn of the results of what will hopefully be a vigorous probe with an intense focus on any unlawful activity aimed at suppressing the voices of Muslim Americans exercising their constitutional right to vote. Every American must enjoy complete confidence in knowing each vote counts and is free from discriminatory tampering. In choosing to investigate, the Attorney General has correctly signaled to voters that any potential attempt to unlawfully impede on a citizen’s right to vote will be scrutinized as a threat to our democracy.”
Voters Organized to Inspire Civic Engagement (VOICE) Board Member Anise Saif stated:
“We would like to thank the Attorneys Generals Office for investigating this serious matter. Citizens basic rights should never be violated because of their race, ethnicity, or religion. The outcome of this investigation is very important as it will send a very clear message not only in our city and community but across our country that voter suppression and violation of civil rights will no longer be tolerated and individuals who commit these acts will be prosecuted. However unfortunately if nothing is done it continues to give the green light to continue these acts of discrimination. We hope this investigation is taken very seriously as we will not be quiet until justice is served.”
Amira Muflahi, an organizer in Lackawanna with VOICE added:
“This is a great leap towards voter rights equity. We hope our community’s issue of voter suppression does not get lost in the mechanics of the political machine. Marginalized demographics who find themselves vulnerable to people in power should be empowered and protected by the candidates they elect into office. Unfortunately, former Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski has rather chosen to suppress their voice and we demand that his actions be expeditiously investigated. We refuse to be pacified with tactics that have been used in the past. We hope Attorney General Letitia James will fight for our civil liberties and we look forward to working with her to help preserve the Democratic process of this great nation.”
Michael Quackenbush of the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance said:
“We are encouraged by the fact that the AG’s office has opened an investigation into voter suppression in Lackawanna, Erie County. ! Let’s hope this leads to a thorough effort to find out the truth and rectify any problems that interfere with everyone’s right to vote.”
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, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-NY Litigation Director Ahmed Mohamed, 646-481-2103, email@example.com