Election Day is fast approaching. With less than three months to go, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is mobilizing legal volunteers nationwide to lead Election Protection, the country’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Election Protection was formed in 2001 to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in our democracy. Through the dedication of attorneys, law students, and paralegals around the country Election Protection is able to provide voters with comprehensive and immediate assistance on Election Day. This service has been instrumental in helping Americans all over the country to exercise their right to vote for the past decade.
Election Protection has two key components. The centerpiece of the program is the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) (1-888-VE-Y-VOTA for Spanish speakers). Through the hotline, voters can call and speak with a trained volunteer to ask questions and get information about voting, and report problems with voting. Inquiries run the gamut and may be as simple as a voter asking for his or her polling location to more substantial problems such as voter intimidation at the polling place which require follow up with state or county officials. All calls received into the Hotline are reported into Our Vote Live, an online database and reporting system available for public consumption, so voters, election officials, and the media have a live feed of what is happening in their communities. Additionally, our legal volunteers spearhead a comprehensive field monitoring program in targeted precincts and polling sites where we help voters with questions and report problems into the Hotline.
The Lawyers’ Committee relies on pro bono resources and the spirit of volunteerism inherent in many in the legal profession. This year we aim to recruit 10,000 legal volunteers from across the country to volunteer on Election Day. We will also aim to partner with over 75 law firms and law schools around the country who support Election Protection in a number of ways including by hosting call centers, developing legal materials for Election Day, providing media and communications support and, of course, supporting the program with volunteers.
The Bay Area is host to one of our three national call centers (in addition to New York and Washington D.C.). Partnering with various Bay Area law firms, Election Protection is able to recruit, manage, train, and staff the hotline with hundreds of volunteers on Election Day. Volunteers go through a two-hour training session and are then assigned to a four-hour shift during which they answer calls from voters up and down the West Coast. Most volunteers have no prior experience with voting laws. The Lawyers’ Committee and its partners help provide hotline volunteers with comprehensive training, a suite of legal materials for reference, and call center “captains” who assist volunteers in answering some of the more complex calls. The experience of helping a voter, one at a time, to exercise their right to vote on Election Day keeps many of our volunteers coming back again every election cycle.
If you want to protect the right to vote and are interested in volunteering for Election Protection in the Bay Area, visit our voter protection website at www.866ourvote.org for more information and to sign up to help on Election Day.
Sonia Gill is an Associate Counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in the Voting Rights Project. She manages Election Protection programs in nine states, including California.