With the 2016 general election just one month away, Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, is ramping up its efforts to safeguard voting rights across the country. Multiple states have attempted to impose severe restrictions on the right to vote. While courts have batted down many of these efforts to limit the franchise, the confusion surrounding recent rulings and the lack of accurate information could disrupt voting this election cycle. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is spearheading Election Protection’s efforts to protect voters this election cycle, using hotlines, field monitors and voter education, as well as its expansive network of national partners and state advocates, to respond to any questions or concerns voters may have.
“The 2016 presidential election cycle makes clear that voting discrimination and voter suppression continues to rear its ugly ahead across our country,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Election Protection and its central 866-OUR-VOTE hotline are available to help voters nationwide to overcome the barriers that stand between them and the ballot box. Our goal through the Election Protection program is to ensure that all voters are able to exercise the most important right in our democracy.”
Specifically, the program will address:
How recent voting changes have the potential to impact the 2016 election: Although officials in numerous states have proposed measures that would increase the efficiency and inclusiveness of voting procedures, introducing measures such as automatic voter registration, others have turned back the clock on the voting process. Voters in 14 states face new voting restrictions, several of which have drastically impact minority voters. Courts have successfully struck down some of these regulations, but the threat to equal access to the ballot box remains. Election Protection is particularly concerned about the following:
- Implementation of voter ID laws and recent court decisions concerning voter ID like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin
- Voter registration issues in Georgia and Ohio
- Improper challenges and voter intimidation at the polls
How pollworkers, volunteers, and voters can combat challenges to voting rights: Pollworkers, volunteers, and fellow voters are best able to gauge situations unfolding at polling places on Election Day. Ultimately, this group forms the first line of defense in ensuring voting rights for eligible voters, and Election Protection aims to equip them with the resources and information they need to do so. In the weeks leading up to November 8, Election Protection will continue training volunteers nationwide to monitor Election Day activities and will provide detailed analyses and explanations pertaining to the latest legal decisions on state-specific voting laws.
How minority voters can exercise their right to vote: Given that this year’s election will be the first without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, it’s essential that voters who have historically faced discrimination at the polls can fulfill their civic duty without fear of intimidation. Election Protection simplifies the voting process by offering three nonpartisan voter helplines where trained volunteers are available to address voters’ questions or problems with voter registration, early voting, voter I.D. requirements and other related voting issues to ensure that every vote counts. Voters can seek answers to their questions through the hotlines at the following times:
- Toll-free English-language hotline: The Lawyers’ Committee’s 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) is currently staffed live on weekdays from 10 a.m-6 p.m. EST and will expand hours and days as Election Day nears.
- Toll-free Spanish-language hotline: NALEO’s 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) is live year-round.
- Toll-free Asian-language hotline: Voters needing assistance during election season in various Asian languages can call and leave a message to AAJC and APIAVote’s 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683), and a volunteer will return their call.
“Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy, yet not all citizens have equal access to voting,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Asian Americans face a number of barriers that impedes our access to the ballot box. The challenges of discriminatory voting laws and lack of access to in-language voter resources are just a few of the obstacles that contribute to lower civic engagement and keep our community from exercising its full political power.”
“For the first time in more than 50 years, Latino voters will cast ballots in a presidential election without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” said Arturo Vargas, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund executive director. “With more than 13.1 million Latino voters expected to make their voices heard at the ballot box this year, the Latino electorate will play a decisive role in the race for the White House and contests nationwide. NALEO Educational Fund will be here for the Latino community in the lead up to Election Day, working tirelessly on the ground and through our toll-free bilingual hotline 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) to ensure Latino voters have the information necessary to vote and a resource to report any problems they may experience at the polls.”
“As we head into to the first presidential election since 1965 without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, the 888-API-VOTE hotline is even more critical to protect and serve our electorate,” said Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). “This election hotline not only provides AAPI voters essential in-language assistance, it ensures that all voters, regardless of proficiency in English, will have equitable access to the ballot box. This is especially important as we know from polling that turnout of limited English proficient voters in 2012 was 9 percent lower than English proficient voters. Our voter education and protection efforts across the country are amplifying this hotline through the elections to ensure equity for our communities at the ballot box.”