Nation's Largest Election Protection Coalition Launches Hotline, Website
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With record voter turnout expected at the polls this November, the Election Protection coalition, which includes the Lawyersâ€™ Committee for Civil Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Rock the Vote say they have prepared the largest and most comprehensive election watch effort ever undertaken.
"Weâ€™re confident that we can help millions of Americans overcome obstacles to make sure their votes count," said Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections, part of the Lawyersâ€™ Committee.
The primary tool will be a toll-free phone number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (and its Spanish counterpart 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA), a nonpartisan confidential voter services hotline.
"All voters, this is your lifeline when it comes to information around voting. If you have any questions, any problems, any rumors â€¦ this is where you should turn," Barbara Arnwine, Lawyersâ€™ Committee executive director said. "You canâ€™t dial it enough."
The hotlineâ€™s web component, 866ourvote.org (veyvota.org in Spanish) allows voters to share their polling place problems.
Organizers say legal experts are already answering calls and chronicling the problems that voters experience. In the past, reported issues have included problematic voting machines, intimidation, inadequate voter education and poor poll worker training.
Tyler Perry, a film director and actor, will also star in public service announcements that will air in parts of the country where voters have experienced challenges in recent elections, encouraging voters to call the hotline.
"We are [already] seeing some issues of just incompetence and very poor election administration" said Arrnwine.
Those include possible challenges of Michigan voters that are registered at foreclosed properties and notices that have been sent to New Jersey voters warning that they may not be properly registered.
Efrain Escobedo, National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) education fund voter engagement director, said heâ€™s concerned about the high number of legal residents who have applied for citizenship but have been caught in applications backlogs. He said NALEO is working with the Spanish network Univision to promote the hotline.
"Weâ€™ve heard it many times before that this is the election for young people and it has never been truer," said Heather Smith, executive director of Rock the Vote. Some estimate that voter participation among those under 30 in this yearâ€™s hotly contested primary doubled nationally compared with the 2000 primaries.
Rock the Vote is reaching out to young voters with a bus tour stopping in areas where young voters may be confused about the process. Recent stops included Virginia Tech University, where students were told that registering to vote where they attend school may cause them to lose scholarship money, and a stop at the Veteransâ€™ Affairs (VA) medical center in Washington, D.C. to register voters following the lifting of a ban on voter registration activities at VA hospitals.
"We want to make sure no one is confused so weâ€™re going out today to make sure young people can vote," Smith said. "We want to make sure that each of the voters we bring into the process â€¦ not just register but have their votes counted."
Jackie Johnson, National Congress of American Indians executive president said she expects the native vote to be the crucial in battleground states including Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico.
"Unfortunately with the increased attention comes the increased targeting of native voters," she said, noting that the validity of tribal ID cards has been challenged at polling places.
Native Vote, part of the Election Protection coalition is working in 20 states with high populations of American Indians with legal teams familiar with Indian country and native law to offer assistance. "We believe that this collective effort can make a real difference to empower traditionally disenfranchised native communities," she said.
Kat Zambon is a researcher at ElectionLine.org.