'Don’t Be Scurred': Avoiding Problems At The Polls On Election Day
6 months ago
Election protection volunteers mobilize to ensure voters get to exercise their rights
Let’s be honest – warnings about scary Tea Party watchdogs cornering black and Latino voters in battleground states and challenging their right to cast ballots at the polls are probably a bit overexaggerated.
But that doesn’t mean that anyone should let his or her guard down. Attorneys with civil rights organizations and voter protection groups have fanned out to swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin to put weary voters at ease.
In a year when the Obama administration and groups in the legal community have had to put intense pressure on states where Republican-controlled legislatures passed voter ID laws and used other suppression tactics found to disproportionately affect minority voters, people have a right to be on alert, says Jennifer Farmer, deputy communications director for the Advancement Project.
“People are not on their own,” Farmer said in a phone interview from Columbus, Ohio, where she is stationed to assist with the project’s voter protection efforts. “We should not let the threat of Election Day bullies deter us from voting.”
The Advancement Project, along with liberal groups like the NAACP and the National Urban League, has stepped up to provide support to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law hotline, which was created to assist people who feel they are being intimidated or their vote is being unlawfully challenged before or on Election Day. The group has already made tens of thousands of calls to correct bad information, the Associated Press reported. (The number for the hotline is 1-866-OUR-VOTE.)
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“There are some people that are trying to challenge votes in predominantly black and Latino areas,” Farmer said. “But I don’t want to perpetuate the notion that as soon as you walk up to the polls there is going to be a challenge.”
It’s important, she added, to know your individual state’s laws on voter challenges. While there are 39 states that allow private citizens to challenge voter eligibility, and 24 states that allow these on-the-spot challenges without any proof, the process doesn’t often favor the challenger. In some cases, a challenger from outside of your voting precinct isn’t allowed to challenge you at all. And there are states that do not allow any challenges on Election Day. (For information of state-by-state laws, click here.)
That’s exactly what voting rights activists are concerned about this year. True The Vote, a national conservative “voting integrity” group, pledged to dispatch 1 million volunteers at polling stations in 31 states to monitor the election. In Ohio, a longtime African American voter told ABC’s "Nightline" that she’d received a letter from a True The Vote affiliated group notifying her that her vote was being challenged because it believed the address on her registration was a vacant lot. Elections officials deemed the challenge invalid, but the voter saw herself as a target because she lives in a predominantly minority neighborhood.