Stacie B. Burgess
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
202) 445-6101 (cell)
Voters Face Challenges at Polls During March 15 Primary Election
As Polls Close in North Carolina, Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Missouri, Election Protection Received Over 2,100 Calls
Washington, D.C., March 15, 2016 – The nationwide nonpartisan Election Protection voter hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE received more 2,100 calls as voters in five states headed to the polls during March 15 presidential preference primaries as of 6 p.m. EDT. The hotline received a steady stream of calls throughout the day with voters seeking information and requesting assistance on a range of issues that resulted from poll worker misinformation, voter ID requirement implementation, long lines and last minute polling place changes.
“The hundreds of calls to 866-OUR-VOTE make clear that voters still continue to face barriers when seeking to exercise the right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The nature and sheer volume of complaints received from states such as North Carolina, Illinois and Florida demonstrates that much work remains to be done to improve access to the ballot box across our country."
Throughout the day, the majority of the calls came from North Carolina where the state’s restrictive voter ID law was in effect for the first time.
In North Carolina:
Eligible voter encounters problem with voter ID requirement:
A voter in Wake County only had a temporary driver’s license for today’s election. The poll worker at her polling location said she would have to cast a provisional ballot and it should count according to the state’s “reasonable impediment” law, but because the voter was not confident that her ballot would be counted, she returned home to get her passport which is a valid form of ID. The voter has voted in the same precinct and polling location for the last 20 years and never had a problem casting a ballot.
Long-time voter not on voter roll at polling place where she has voted for last 30 years:
A woman in Durham County went to her polling place where she has voted for the past 30 years but a poll worker could not find her on the voter rolls. After searching the voter rolls several times and then asking the chief judge for help, the poll worker offered the voter a provisional ballot. The voter did not want to vote provisionally and went to the Board of Elections where she waited in line for another 45 minutes before she was able to cast a regular ballot. Upon contacting Election Protection, a volunteer was also able to verify her voter registration status and noted that she has voted in 62 previous elections. The voter indicated she was concerned for other voters who may not have had the time or resources to follow up in the way she did in order to ensure that they cast a ballot that counts.
Election Protection Helps 93-Year-Old Voter to Cast a Ballot:
A 93-year-old voter was initially denied a ballot after attempting to vote with an expired ID. Both a Democracy NC poll monitor and Election Protection hotline volunteer informed her of her right to vote with the ID. Armed with this information, she went back to the polling place, informed the poll workers that she should be allowed to vote with an expired ID (as she is over the age of 70), and was allowed to cast her vote.
No notification of last minute polling place location:
At North Carolina Central University the polling place was moved from the student union to the law school. This change was not reflected on the Durham County Board of Elections website for most of the day, and no signs were present indicating the change and directing voters to the new location. An Election Protection volunteer created a sign to inform voters of the move and redirected over 100 people to the new polling location. Many of the voters were elderly and had trouble getting across campus, which included a steep hill. As of 4:15 p.m. EDT today, several hours after the opening of the polls, the Durham County Board of Elections appeared to have updated their website.
Lines Over an Hour Long in Wilmington:
Long lines were reported at the VFW polling location in Wilmington where voters were waiting over an hour to vote, many of whom were elderly. An Election Protection volunteer encouraged voters to stay in line, but counted at least 17 people who left the polling location without casting a ballot.
Malfunctioning electronic poll book issues:
In Orange County, a voter called 866-OUR-VOTE to report that the electronic poll books used to look up voters were malfunctioning, causing delays in checking in voters as they arrived at the polling site. The problem resulted in a long line and although the voter was able to wait and vote, the voter reported that other voters left the line and polling place without voting.
Long Lines Impact Elderly Voters:
Another voter in Volusia County called 866-OUR-VOTE to report long lines at his polling location. Voters were forced to wait at least an hour, including many senior citizens who left because they could not stand and wait that long. Election Protection reported the issue to the county board of elections.
Voter Denied Opportunity to Register to Vote at Polling Site in Accordance with Law:
Despite the fact that Election Day Registration should be available to voters at all polling locations in counties with a population of over 100,000, a McHenry County voter who needed to register reported that the supervisor at his polling location directed him to another location but did not provide the address. The Illinois State Board Elections in Chicago confirmed that McHenry County should have Election Day Registration at all polling places allowing voters to register at the polling site. McHenry County officials were called numerous times but were not reachable to address the issue.
17-Year-Old Eligible to Vote Turned Away at the Polls:
In Chicago, a 17-year-old voter who will turn 18 next week reported that she tried to register at her polling location, but the electronic form would not allow her to register because she is 17. The voter was not offered a provisional ballot and left the polling location without casting a ballot. The Chicago Board of Elections reported that her ballot would have been counted.
Election Protection Helps Student Voters at Wheaton College:
A student went to vote at polling location near Wheaton College and was turned away by a poll worker. The voter had his student ID and driver’s license, but the poll worker incorrectly informed the voter that college students need to provide another form of ID with the college’s mailing address. Election Protection contacted a deputy registrar with the DuPage County Election Commission, who informed the poll worker that college students are allowed to vote in this election with a driver's license and a student ID. The student returned to the polling location and was able to vote but noted 15 to 20 of his fellow students had left the polling location without voting.
About Election Protection
Election Protection is the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its suite of hotlines, including the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline (866-687-8683) administered by the Lawyers’ Committee, 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) administered by NALEO Educational Fund, 888-API-VOTE (888-273-8683) administered by APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC and a dedicated team of trained legal and grassroots volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting. The coalition has more than 100 partners—including Advancement Project, Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, League of Women Voters of the United States, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, State Voices, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting Foundation—at the national, state and local levels and provides voter protection services nationwide. For more information about Election Protection and the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, please visit www.866ourvote.org.