Harvard Group to Monitor November Election

A group founded by Harvard law students announced plans Tuesday to send observers to 49 states this November to help ensure voters in the fall election are not improperly turned away from the polls.

The group, called Just Democracy (search), plans to dispatch at least 1,000 students from across the country to polls in every state with a law school, which includes all but Alaska.

Student leaders want to help ease the bureaucratic mistakes or ignorance of the law they say were to blame for much of the confusion in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

They plan to enlist a mix of Republican, Democratic and independent volunteers to watch over polls on Nov. 2.

"We're not in this for the presidential election," said group founder Becca O'Brien (search). "We're in this because we believe every vote should count."

The group says students may be able to catch common errors at the polls before a voter is sent away, including simple problems involving changes of address or identification requirements.

Rules that govern observers' access to polls vary by state, so the group plans to work with election officials before November.

For instance, observers in Massachusetts are permitted to take notes by the table where voters check in but cannot speak to them until they have left the polling area, said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the secretary of state.