Albuquerque – Operation of the Election Protection program during New Mexico’s June 1 primary ran smoothly, as poll monitors in Albuquerque helped voters who encountered problems, including polling places that did not open on time, confusing signage, conflicting advice on the use of provisional ballots, and other minor problems that were all settled in a timely fashion, allowing voters to cast their ballots.
As a pilot for the upcoming general election, the Election Protection program provided a toll-free, statewide voter assistance hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE), and ran a pilot program for poll monitors in precincts across Albuquerque. The hotline provided voters and election officials with instant access to free legal advice from volunteer lawyers and law students trained in election law. The program also stationed monitors at polling places in heavily Hispanic areas to distribute educational materials and assist voters on the spot.
“This trial run was a great success. We worked with election officials before the primary, including Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, to provide materials in English and Spanish to help educate voters, and the few problems we encountered on Election day were resolved quickly,” said Guillermo Nicacio, a field organizer for the Election Protection program and People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). “Of course, with a huge turnout and close races expected for the general election, we will face many more challenges – but we have learned some new things and will be even better prepared.”
Coalition partners in the Election Protection program in New Mexico include the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association, New Mexico Hispano Round Table, New Mexico MANA, Re-Visioning New Mexico and People For the American Way Foundation.
This is a brief summary of some of the issues faced by voters, election officials and the Election Protection volunteers in yesterday’s primary:
For the general election, the program plans to station more than 1,000 monitors at polling places across the state, and the toll-free hotline will be staffed with law students and volunteer lawyers specially trained on the issues at stake in New Mexico and state voting rights.
“Our goal is to make sure that every New Mexican who wants to vote on Election Day can cast a vote and have it counted. We’ll continue our work with state election officials in the months leading up to the general election to make sure voters know their rights and are prepared to go to the polls,” said Carleton Atkinson, a deputy director for legal outreach for Election Protection.
Election Protection is the nation’s most ambitious non-partisan program for preventing Election Day disenfranchisement. The coalition of state and national allies seeks to ensure that every eligible voter casts a ballot that counts on Election Day and conducts aggressive voter registration and education programs to reach people who haven’t been voting. For more information on Election Protection, see www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=12711.