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Politics Worried about voter suppression? Lawyers set up national hotline to answer questions about election laws

15:25  24 october  2020
15:25  24 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Voter suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting.

Yet when voter suppression occurs, election results may be less reflective of constituents’ actual will. During the lead- up to the November elections , Michigan also experienced problems due to the secretary Voter confusion ran rampant on Election Day in Missouri. This year, the state was set to

WASHINGTON — Onika Williams sat at her dining room table in Arlington, Virginia, flipped open her laptop and began her shift fielding calls from voters across the country.

Some wanted to know where they could go to vote early. Others called into the national hotline to ask how they could track their mail-ballot.

“Voters are engaged and they want to make sure their votes count,’’ said Williams, a 37-year-old lawyer volunteering with Election Protection, a nonpartisan coalition that provides a national hotline for voters.

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Voter suppression in the United States concerns various efforts, legal and illegal, used to prevent eligible voters from exercising their right to vote.

TIME answers your biggest questions about voting in the 2020 election . The hotline is a nonpartisan resource run by Election Protection, a coalition of voting- access advocacy groups. Keep in mind that voter suppression can take many forms—physical threats, intimidating phone calls

Williams is among nearly 24,000 lawyers volunteering to help voters across the country navigate changes in what has become an unprecedented election cycle plagued by confusion and problems. With the novel coronvirus pandemic, officials have scrambled to overhaul the way voters cast ballots, leaving some frustrated and worried whether their vote will count.

Organizers of Election Protection, a national coalition of civil rights and voting rights groups, said the number of volunteers has quadrupled since the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections. They’re bracing for even more calls as Election Day nears and in the days and weeks following.

“The volume of litigation and intensity of the phone calls makes clear that the 2020 election is a season like none other in recent times,’’ said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups leading the effort.

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Your Election Questions Answered . Here is a guide on how to vote, how the election process If you’re worried about getting it wrong, note that the United States Postal Service’s policy is not to There are three official channels to report voter suppression . You can contact the election office for

These laws are often put into place by Republicans who say they’re needed to guard against voter fraud. The BBC has been helping make sense of it by answering a range of your questions . In some cases, your question will be published, displaying your name, age and location as you provide

The hotline has received more than 100,000 calls since July, averaging about 7,000 a day, organizers said. At this point in 2016, the group had fielded 21,000 calls since January of that year.

Organizers are particularly expecting a flood of calls from states like Florida and Texas, where there have been several election law changes, and from battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“The onset of COVID-19 has posed really unprecedented challenges to voters all across the country,’’ said Harlene Katzman, pro bono counsel/director at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in New York, which is working with Election Protection.

She said those challenges include voters unsure about going to the polls for fear of exposure to the virus.

Several Election Protection groups have filed lawsuits challenging election changes and responses. Last week, after voters called the hotline, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sued Virginia to extend its voter registration deadline by 48 hours after a fiber optic cable was accidentally cut and crashed the system.

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Here’s why this makes a post- election disaster marginally less likely. First, it removes one way Republicans can invalidate mail ballots. “Pennsylvania lacks experience with anything like this volume of ballots, and this will make the counting go faster,” election law expert Rick Hasen told me.

And while voter suppression and intimidation is actively ongoing — the president has been sowing seeds of doubt According to a statement obtained by the Baltimore Sun, up to 300,000 elderly voters can ride in But, Southerners worried that direct democracy would disadvantage slave-holding states.

More: Trump 'army' of poll watchers could frighten voters, incite violence, election officials warn

a person standing in front of a crowd: Tamara Ross waits in line on the first day of early voting for the general election at the C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center on Oct. 12, 2020 in Atlanta, Ga.. Early voting in Georgia runs from Oct.12 to Oct. 30. © Jessica McGowan, Getty Images Tamara Ross waits in line on the first day of early voting for the general election at the C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center on Oct. 12, 2020 in Atlanta, Ga.. Early voting in Georgia runs from Oct.12 to Oct. 30.

New laws stirring anxiety

The Election Protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) is available all year, but calls have ramped up in recent weeks as millions started casting ballots early in some states.

Some complained they didn’t get their mail-in ballot. Others were confused about election changes. Clarke said there has been confusion in states like Texas and Tennessee, where she said officials have put restrictions on who has access to vote by mail.

“Many of them are pandemic-driven concerns that are coming to the fore,’’ she said.

Clarke noted a call from a voter in quarantine because of COVID-19 who hadn’t received a ballot and wanted to know what to do. She said others have asked whether their ballots will be delivered on time with delays in postal service while others question whether mail-in ballots are secure.

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The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law ( Lawyers Committee) is a nonpartisan We ran voter education campaigns, advocated with community partners to improve election administration The Appendix summarizes the series of victorious lawsuits challenging voter suppression laws that

Under federal law , individuals may donate as much as _____ per candidate per election and up to _____ per national party committee per calendar year. An election in which voters can participate in the nomination of candidates, but only of the party in which they are enrolled for a period of time prior

“It is hard for people to figure out how to vote in a lot of different places because the laws and procedures that are governing the way voting works is complicated,’’ said Katzman. “The most important role of the election protection volunteer is to figure out what the voter's problem is.”

With the pandemic, many voters don’t have access to traditional support systems, including churches and civic organizations, to get reliable information, said Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of Transformative Justice Coalition, a racial justice and voting rights advocacy group.

“It's an environment in which too many voters find themselves stranded,’’ she said.

Another problem, said Arnwine, is the pervasiveness of voter suppression tactics.

In the last 10 years, nearly half the states have adopted measures that make it harder to vote, including requiring voter ID and limiting early voting, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice in New York. The changes disproportionately impact voters of color, the center found earlier this year. The center said 25% of voting-age Black Americans don't have government-issued ID compared to 8% of white Americans.

“In the past, we were able to tell you, ‘This state is going to be ground zero. That state is going to be ground zero,’’ Arnwine said. "Now, when I talk to you about ground zero, I've got to pull out a list of states.’’

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Common Cause Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan watchdog group and Election Protection partner, is hearing from voters who want reassurance they’re doing everything right.

“We are seeing such incredible voter anxiety in Pennsylvania that is really a result of a lot of the new laws,’’ said Suzanne Almeida, the group's interim executive director.

Almeida pointed to various election changes, including vote-by-mail available to eligible voters for the first time in some states, satellite election offices and deadline extensions.

“All of which is in the midst of probably the most fraught election – at least of my lifetime,’’ she said.

More: Know your voting rights: Here's what to do if you encounter intimidation at the polls on Election Day

'We have a clarion call'

Election Protection has gone mostly virtual this year because of the pandemic, with most lawyers like Williams working from their homes or other spaces. In the past, scores of lawyers fielded calls from a law office turned command center in Washington, D.C.

The virtual conditions have meant more lawyers can volunteer because they don’t have to travel to call centers to work hours-long shifts, recruiters said.

More than 7,000 members of the National Bar Association, a group of mostly African American lawyers, are among those joining the Election Protection effort. Last week, the volunteers were trained on election rules in 27 states.

Many of the states have barriers to voting that particularly hurt communities of color, said CK Hoffler, the association president.

“We just think we have a clarion call,’’ she said. “We’re not playing. We’re serious about this. It’s protecting the right to vote, not partisan politics … Black folks died so that we can vote.“

Beyond answering calls, some partners are also providing masks, gloves, shields and sanitizers to voters.

“We want them to vote knowing that they are as safe as they can be,” said Hoffler.

Williams, chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association, will spend upcoming days helping volunteers answer calls from voters in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“We have been issued a call to action,'' said Williams.

For more follow @Dberrygannett on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Worried about voter suppression? Lawyers set up national hotline to answer questions about election laws

Survey: Nearly 2 out of 3 voters will cast their ballots early in-person or by mail, not on Election Day .
The survey showed a significant partisan divide, too. Those supporting Biden are more likely to say they plan to vote by mail than those who support Trump.When combining those who are voting by mail (42%) and those who voting early in-person (26%), nearly 2 in 3 voters will be casting their ballot ahead of Election Day, according to a survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project.

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