Groups Educate Voters, Remove Potential Voting Blocks
By Mary Silver On October 23, 2012 @ 8:08 pm In National News | No Comments
“It’s important we uplift and empower people,” said Eric Marshall, co-leader of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection, in a telephone press conference. He said that some poll workers are confused, as are some voters, by new and fluctuating state voting rules.
His group has built relationships with local election officials—“the ones who can really resolve problems,” according to Marshall. Election Protection is prepared to file emergency lawsuits on Election Day.
Since 2011, 19 states have adopted 25 laws and 2 executive actions restricting how people can register to vote and how they can cast their votes.
Civil rights and voting rights advocates alike opposed the new rules. State and federal courts blocked some of them, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
“These victories should send a strong message that the civil rights community is active in protecting voting rights,” said Myrna Pérez, senior counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center.
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all have new laws that have the potential to disenfranchise eligible voters.
Ethnic minorities, the young, the poor, and the elderly are most likely to have problems with voting, according to Pérez. Voting advocates are using multiple tactics to make sure that eligible voters know the rules and are able to cast their votes.
“It’s not a situation where if we build it they will come,” said Evan Bacalao, senior director of Civic Engagement with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, in a telephone press conference.
“A lot of tribal elders still use thumbprints as ID.”
—Derrick Beetso, staff attorney, National Congress of American Indians
Various groups are running multilanguage, toll-free voting hotlines and providing palm cards with state voting rules such as what identification to bring to the polls. Groups are also running print and online ads, or public service advertisements, and providing interactive websites with precinct locations and other information, but if the information does not reach eligible voters, they still could be disenfranchised.
“We’re expecting a significant amount of confusion and misinformation, so voter education is important,” said Bacalao.
The Spanish-English hotline is 1-866-Our-Vote.
“A big part of what we do is make sure eligible Latino voters can cast their ballot on Election Day,” he added.
Poll workers sometimes need education, too, according to Jeanette Lee, voting staff attorney at the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC). For example, according to Lee, Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gives the right to bring someone with you into the voting booth if you need help with English.
“Many poll workers don’t know that Section 208 applies nationwide,” said Lee. Her group prepared has palm cards in multiple Asian languages to explain this and other legal rights.
AAJC is piloting a limited Asian Election Protection Hotline in Florida and Virginia on Nov. 5 and 6, 1-888-API-Vote.
Native Americans face special challenges, too, according to Derrick Beetso, staff attorney for the National Congress of American Indians.
“A lot of tribal elders still use thumbprints as ID, and 14 percent of the population have no running water or electricity,” said Beetso. Therefore, they do not have utility bills to prove residency in order to get identification.
Beetso’s group is also building relationships with local election officials to adjust identification requirements for Native Americans, and they are recruiting young people to volunteer to go with elders to the polls.
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