John McKeever

serves on the board of the Lawyers' Committee

for Civil Rights Under Law

The birth of our democracy took place right here in Philadelphia. That's just one reason to be especially troubled that people in our area are trying to tamper with the voting process by scaring voters away from the polls.

A few weeks ago, fliers were posted on the Drexel University campus falsely warning students that undercover police officers would be waiting at voting booths on Election Day to arrest anyone with so much as an outstanding parking ticket.

This deliberate misinformation appears to be part of a broader effort to intimidate voters. It must not be allowed to succeed in Philadelphia or anywhere else in the nation.

Recently, students at Virginia Tech were wrongly warned that they could lose their scholarships or their parents could lose their tax deductions if the students registered to vote on or near campus. Elsewhere, there have been disputed reports that political operatives could challenge voters' eligibility by using foreclosure lists to cast doubt on their residency.

Dirty tricks, sadly, are still with us. Politicians of all parties should join responsible Americans in loudly decrying any attempts to rig elections.

Just as we push back against intimidation, we also should push ahead with correcting misinformation and minimizing bureaucratic blunders on Election Day. Just as we have a responsibility to vote, our governments have a responsibility to make sure all of our votes count.

Election officials throughout our region should redouble their efforts to make sure voting runs smoothly and fairly for everyone. Properly registered names must be on the right lists at the polls. There must be enough trained poll workers, ballots and machines. And voters must be reassured that no obstacles will be thrown in their way.

In the proud American tradition, volunteers are turning out to help. A coalition of nonpartisan groups called Election Protection will put more than 10,000 trained lawyers and law students in the field nationwide through Election Day. They will keep a watchful eye out for dirty tricks and bureaucratic mistakes, offer free information, and help voters through a hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) and Web site (

).

Voters and volunteers are doing their part to keep our elections strong. They are turning out for this year's election in record numbers. They're helping each other along the way.

They will not be fooled by misinformation or attempted intimidation, the false fliers at Drexel notwithstanding. Philadelphia's proud history of democracy will continue on Nov. 4.

E-mail John McKeever at john.mckeever@dlapiper.com.