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Democrats to conduct voter protection survey

WASHINGTON - Charging that the Republican Party has gone to extremes of obstructionism in discouraging voter turnout as a stealthy favor to its candidates, the Democratic National Committee announced Aug. 1 that every precinct in every county in America will be subjected to ''an in-depth nationwide survey ... to collect critical data on voting practices and procedures at the local level.'' The DNC's goal is to protect the right of every American to cast a vote that is counted, according to Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, speaking with reporters via conference call.

That will require the project, billed by the DNC as ''the first of its magnitude,'' to ''map the often confusing and complex sets of administrative practices and decisions governing election administration in every state.'' The committee's Voting Rights Institute, chaired by Donna Brazile, who was also on the call, will take the operational lead on the seemingly mammoth undertaking.

The information obtained will be placed in the hands of the party's political candidates, according to Joel Sandler, the DNC general counsel. The candidates will decide whether conditions warrant using the information, but in any case they will possess it will in advance of Election Day eve, when problems have cropped up in recent national elections.

The announcement came a week before National Public Radio broadcast a segment on the ease of tampering with the totals of voting machines.

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In an exceedingly brief conference call, Sandler was unclear on how the survey will be conducted in Indian country, given the communications challenges in numerous Native communities. He was unclear too on how information gathered in the survey phase will be circulated to Indian communities.