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September 3, 2010

Mr. Justin Weinstein-Tull Civil Rights Division Department of Justice Washington DC 20530 Dear Mr. Weinstein-Tull My name is José Gustavo Rivera and I am a candidate for the office of State Senator in New York’s 33rd State Senate District. I am writing to request that the U.S. Department of Justice send federal election observers to the 33rd Senate District, wholly located within Bronx County, New York on Primary Election Day, September 14, 2010. My request stems from 1) a pattern of incidents and behavior involving the campaign of the incumbent office holder, State Senator Pedro Espada, intended to suppress turnout in this majority minority district as well as 2) concern that the introduction of new optical scan voting technology may disproportionately impact minority voters. 1) Incidents are as follows: A) Threatening letters sent to Hispanic voters from the campaign of the incumbent office holder, Pedro Espada In early August, registered voters who had signed ballot access petitions in support of my right to appear on the ballot as a candidate on September 14th received letters which across the top, in bold-face capital letters, read "Notice of Legal Information Warning" and went on to indicate that the recipient had been identified "as a person who has signed a legal document known as a petition." Further, it read: Receipt of this letter is NOT an indication that you have done anything wrong; however, there is reason to believe that your signature has been obtained against the law. The letter requested that the recipient contact the “Ballot Integrity Unit” and was signed "Concerned Citizens for Good Government," but at the bottom of the page, in small type, it read "Paid for by New Yorkers for Espada." Delivery of this letter was followed by in-person visits from Espada campaign staff to the homes of recipients. The appearance and behavior of Espada staff during these visits has been described as intimidating. B) Threats made to my campaign staff in government buildings by campaign staff of Pedro Espada. On Thursday, August 5th at the Board of Elections Headquarters in the Bronx, my campaign manager Horacio Gutierrez and one of my volunteers Jennifer Geller were present to represent the campaign in the ballot access process. They were threatened with bodily harm by Ms.

Marzetta Harris, a member of Pedro Espada’s campaign staff, who also serves as Senator Espada’s Director of Outreach. This threat of violence made by an employee of the state in the Board of Elections sends a strong message about what the tactics the Espada campaign may be prepared to employ during the Primary Election on September 14th. 2) Use of new paper ballots and optical scan voting technology. A) Bronx County has a history of poorly administered elections, as your own records will show, and the change in technology will doubtless be an added challenge for pollworkers. The Primary Election on September 14th will be the first election not conducted on lever voting machines in Bronx County since 1925, when New York City first introduced lever voting. B) Based on an examination of publicly available records, we do not believe that the Board of Elections voter education efforts have been adequate in the area of the 33rd Senate District. Based on publicly available information, of the over 200 public demonstrations of the new voting systems conducted, we do not believe that a single presentation has been conducted in the area of the 33rd Senate District. C) We share the concern that the overvote notification mechanism may disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters. These concerns have been voiced by a wide range of civic groups and office holders, and shared formally with your office in a letter dated April 20, 2010 sent to your offices by Lawrence Norden, Wendy Weiser, and Myrna Pérez. It should be further pointed out that Mr. Espada is currently under several concurrent investigations at the local, state and federal level by the Bronx District Attorney, the New York State Attorney General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I feel that I cannot say with certainty that the incumbent office holder’s campaign will attempt to suppress the vote on Primary Day, or that the introduction of new voting technology will result in an administrative disenfranchisement of minority voters on Primary Election Day 2010. Cumulatively, however, they indicate an environment generally hostile to the successful exercise of the right to vote. Again, I ask that you plan to send election observers to the 33rd Senate District of the State of New York, which is wholly located within Bronx County. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact me at 347-489-1520. Sincerely, José Gustavo Rivera Candidate for the Democratic Party’s Nomination as State Senator for the 33rd Senate District cc: Christopher Malone, Policy Director, Gustavo Rivera for State Senate