FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 8, 2017
Hotline Led by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Fielded Calls from Voters Across Country
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, provided live assistance to over 1000 voters through its 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. Voters reported complaints, some of which impacted systemic problems, or sought assistance with voting. Since 2001, Election Protection has been the go-to-source for voters seeking assistance with navigating the voting process. The volume of calls into the hotline today suggested increases in voter turnout relative to comparable election periods from years prior and expanded interest in local electoral contests such as District Attorney races.
“Much work remains to be done to strengthen and improve elections in our country. Our 2017 Election Protection revealed problems such as voter intimidation, racist campaign appeals, the proliferation of false information regarding voting on social media, robo calls that attempted to disenfranchise voters through misleading and false information, poll sites that opened late or were insufficiently equipped with provisional ballots and voter books, among other issues,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We are heartened that voters and would-be voters across the country reported complaints and took the opportunity to access information needed to exercise the most sacred right in our democracy. Following the election, we urge local and state election officials to undertake action to strengthen and improve access for all voters.”
The Lawyers’ Committee led-effort identified a number of problems including robo calls imparting false information to voters; poll workers providing false information regarding voter eligibility; police presence outside of polling sites, the proliferation of false information regarding the voting process on social media, and other deceptive and suppressive tactics as reported by voters around the country. Specific examples include:
- Voter Intimidation in the form of police officers at polling places throughout St. Louis, Missouri where a ballot measure concerning funding for law enforcement was on the ballot. Specifically, Proposition P would raise the sale tax in order to produce about $20 million in tax revenue, with most funds being allocated for raises and hiring for the St. Louis Police Department. The presence of officers at polling sites was reported throughout the day and comes on the heels of tensions between the minority and law enforcement community.
- Poll workers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania provided false information to Independent voters, instructing them they had to be affiliated with a party to vote in the municipal election. This information was false. Election Protection staff members intervened and the local elections supervisor corrected the misconduct of poll workers.
- Polling places in Hudson County, New Jersey did not have the required voter books for a number of districts. Voters were turned away and told to return at a later time. Other polling sites in New Jersey opened late or turned voters away because there were no provisional ballots on site.
- 866-OUR-VOTE was the first to receive reports at the outset of the Virginia election regarding robo calls targeting voters in the Prince William area. The calls provided false information indicating that voters’ polling sites had been changed. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is examining these robo calls to determine if they violate state or federal laws, and encouraging the FCC to investigate.
- Throughout the day, false information regarding the voting process was circulated over social media platforms such as Twitter. Accounts spread false information indicating that voters could text their votes or otherwise indicated that the day for voting had changed. These messages remained online for hours before being removed and filtered by Twitter. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law continued to identify these messages on social media throughout Election night.
In every election cycle, Election Protection has to confront significant barriers to voter participation. Based on the coalition’s ongoing work and today’s pertinent voting rights news, Election Protection has identified the aforementioned issues as significant concerns for future elections.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.