There are so many different voting problems in this election, it’s difficult to keep track. In Texas, voters are wrongly being asked to show strict photo ID to cast a ballot. In North Carolina, voters are being purged from the rolls and early-voting locations have been cut. In Wisconsin, voters are being turned away from the DMV without getting voter IDs and polling places have been denied on college campuses. In Ohio, thousands of ballots could be thrown out because of minor technical errors.
On top of all this, Donald Trump is working his supporters into a frenzy by claiming the election is rigged and recruiting poll watchers to “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!” His white-nationalist allies, including neo-Nazis and Klan members, say they’re planning to deploy thousands of poll watchers to urban areas. And Trump adviser Roger Stone is sending volunteers to nine Democratic cities with large minority populations, like Cleveland and Las Vegas.
The question I’m asked more than any other is: What can be done to protect voting rights? This question is more salient than at any time since 1965, since this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the protections of the Voting Rights Act. Fortunately, the GOP’s campaign to suppress the vote is being combated by a vigorous effort to defend voting rights.
The Election Protection coalition, spearheaded by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, is running the 866-Our-Vote hotline, which is a great resource for voters who experience problems at the polls. Election Protection will have 22 nationwide call centers fielding questions from voters and an on the ground presence in 26 states, with 5,000 lawyers and 3,000 organizers deployed nationwide. More than 120 organizations are part of the coalition, from the NAACP to the National Association of Latino Election Officials to the Arab-American Institute.
“The fact that this is the first presidential election cycle without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act makes it extra important for us to be on the ground, making sure voters have the information they need to cast a ballot but if there are problems, having people to address the issue,” says Chris Melody Fields, manager of legal mobilization at the Lawyers Committee.
Here are some groups in the Election Protection coalition that were recommended to me by voting rights advocates: VoteRiders and Project Vote are helping people obtain voter IDs. Local chapters of national groups like the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the ACLU have been very active on the ground. State-based groups have been incredibly important in the fight for voting rights, including State Voices, Democracy North Carolina, New Florida Majority, New Virginia Majority, and Arizona Advocacy Network.