Service Offers Live Aid to Voters, Database to Track Problems and Trends, Poll Monitors and Legal Vounteers to be Mobilized in 16 Key States
As the November elections approach, the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition is launching its national 1-866-OUR VOTE voter assistance hotline and the poll location web site www.MyPollingPlace.com. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the only national voter assistance hotline staffed by live call center operators trained to provide state specific assistance to all voters. Lawyers, poll monitors and additional volunteers will be mobilized in 16 key states across the nation to assist voters in the days leading up to the election and on Election Day. Led by People For the American Way Foundation, the NAACP, and the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection (EP) has operated in every election cycle since 2001, and is the nation’s most far-reaching nonpartisan effort to provide voter assistance and protect voter rights. The services will include bilingual assistance for areas with a heavy concentration of Spanish-speaking voters.
Trained volunteers will staff the Hotline providing immediate, state specific, assistance to callers. Call center operators will inform voters and solve problems on issues such as voter identification requirements, voting machine malfunctions, problems at the polling place, and voter intimidation. National call centers will be located in Washington, New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Local call centers will be hosted in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Minnesota.
While the toll-free hotline will be available to voters nationwide, EP’s ground operations will be concentrated in precincts most at risk for disenfranchisement, including low-income communities, African American and Latino communities, and areas with a history of voting irregularities. The coalition will operate in Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Michigan, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Minnesota:
- Conducting GOTV, encouraging early voting and use of absentee ballots
- Organizing Local Legal Coordinating Committees to holistically address voters’ needs, coordinate comprehensive legal field programs, work with local election officials, and develop legal responses to problems on and before Election Day
- Systematically working with elections officials in targeted areas to clarify voter ID rules, increase poll worker training, and oppose onerous restrictions on voter registration procedures
- Publishing Voters’ Bills of Rights for all 50 states
- Producing and distributing educational materials for voters on new ID requirements
- Organizing volunteers to serve as Election Day poll monitors in targeted precincts
- Providing live voter assistance via 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683) and www.MyPollingPlace.com.
By working with local elections officials, and if necessary as a last resort, taking immediate legal action, EP volunteers attempt to remove obstacles to voting that arise before the election or on Election Day, including confusion over polling places, voting sites that do not open as scheduled, and snafus with new electronic voting systems. Most recently, the coalition helped keep the polls open late for frustrated voters in Maryland’s September primary, where human error and poor election administration caused failure and widespread malfunctions in populous Montgomery County and Baltimore City.
EP’s database, the Election Incident Reporting System, records such problems, allowing the lawyers to track them in real time and take appropriate action. The database has been used to support the coalition’s efforts in lawsuits across the country to advocate for voter rights. The information also supports advocacy organizations working to improve voting laws at the local, state and national level, and provided information for a report on disenfranchisement in the 2004 elections called “Shattering the Myth,” available here.
“The November election may well be a crucial turning point for the nation. It’s imperative that voters have faith in our electoral system, that they go to the polls in great numbers, and that their votes will be counted. That’s the Election Protection goal: helping every voter cast a vote that will count,” said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation.
“This election poses significant challenges for voters more than any time in recent history, with an estimated 30 million voters using new machines for the first time. The 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline serves as a lifeline to voters and is available now to help navigate new requirements as well as answer questions about voter eligibility or the location of your polling place,” said Barbara R. Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee.
“NAACP units across the nation will be strategically positioned on Election Day to ensure that every registered voter has an opportunity to exercise their right to vote and that their vote is counted. The information that we receive and process through the Election Protection hotline will allow us to rapidly deploy our voter empowerment ground forces to areas of specific concern to protect voters’ rights,” said Bruce Gordon,” president of the NAACP.
Throughout the year, Election Protection Coalition partners push for reforms in election administration. EP staff and legal team members work with election officials, file lawsuits to challenge election laws and procedures that would lead to disenfranchisement, provide direct assistance to voters, and document election problems and abuses. For more information about EP, visit www.EP365.org or www.866OurVote.org.