#WhyIVolunteer – July Volunteer Spotlight: Hazel Witte
Meet Hazel Witte! She is a dedicated Election Protection volunteer from North Carolina. Her volunteer experience includes being both a poll monitor on the ground and helping to answer voter questions coming in on the 866-OURVOTE hotline. She holds a JD and a member of the DC bar.
Q. Why would you recommend this volunteer opportunity to someone else?
Voting is unduly complicated and people really need help- or they won’t vote. I’ve worked three elections in North Carolina – 2016, 2018 to the 2020 primary. Across the board, people want to get it right and they want their vote to count. Those “I voted” stickers are really worn with pride – otherwise you wouldn’t see people posting photos of themselves, or putting them on a car dashboard, or pasting on the refrigerator with the kids’ drawings and the vet’s emergency number. Whether it’s questions about how to register, what can be brought into the polling booth, why a voter’s polling place is different for early voting than election day, etc., each interaction really does affect how people feel about their right to vote.
Q. Why do you volunteer your time to ensure voter’s have access to the ballot?
Civic duty. People do appreciate having a non-partisan place to turn, especially on election day. I volunteered for Election Protection in 2016, working several polling stations in Durham County, NC. We (lawyers paired up in teams) thought we would do our shift, and head back home to a beautiful fall day. Our four hour shift turned into many more hours as the voter rolls became inaccessible for hours and people told us they were being sent away to told to come back in a few hours. Our reports back to Election Protection helped make it possible to keep several polling stations open several hours longer. It was time well spent. Providing answers to the “simple” questions can eliminate the hesitancy people have with the voting process. I answered a few calls on the hotline from people getting information for their children so they could register the first time. Turns out they wanted to go to the polls as a family, so they wanted to make sure everyone knew how and when to register. That was pretty heartwarming.
Q. What are the most persistent barriers to voting you have heard about while volunteering?
Voting rolls breakdown (2016), confusion on ID’s, confusion on provisional ballots. There are a lot of barriers. Actually one of the big ones is confusion on where to vote – polling places are moved, early voting is in a different place than where you vote on election day, etc. People try to allot enough time to vote, and if they show up to the wrong polling place, they really want to go to the right one, even though they can be offered a provisional ballot. I think it goes back to wanting to get it right and making sure their vote counts.
Q. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your experience and why you volunteer? I truly appreciate participating in the election process and interacting with voters. Every query from someone casting a vote is important. If it is not a good experience or a confusing one, there is a risk that they won’t vote again or discourage others from voting. Participating in Election Protection always feels like time well-spent.
If you would like to learn more about the upcoming volunteering opportunities that Election Protection offers, please click here!