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Civil Rights Groups Create Hotlines to Answer Voters' Questions on Nov. 8 

click to enlarge voting_booth.jpg

Thé N. Pham

Civil rights groups have created hotlines and will send out volunteers on Election Day to help answer voters’ questions and ensure that eligible voters aren’t hindered.

They held a conference call with reporters Monday about efforts in Virginia, which include several hundred volunteers who can answer questions about Virginia’s photo ID law and whether voters are at the right location.

Liberal group ProgressVA organized the call, but the groups involved in the election-protection effort said it’s nonpartisan.

“We believe that an educated voter is an empowered voter, and we also believe that protecting the integrity of our election means every eligible voter gets to cast a ballot that’s counted,” said Arusha Gordon, a lawyer focused on voting rights for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The Lawyers’ Committee recently successfully sued for a brief extension of Virginia’s voter registration deadline after the state’s registration website failed.

That group and others such as the League of United Latin American Citizens will place volunteers at precincts across the state to answer questions on Election Day.

In the past, voters have called with questions about polling locations, hours and the type of ID needed, said Sindy Benavides, civic engagement and community mobilization director of the league, which operates a bilingual hotline.

One common question, she said, is whether a voter can bring someone into the voting booth with them “in the language that they feel comfortable with.” That is allowed.

The Virginia Civic Engagement Table will station about 300 volunteers wearing “866-OUR-VOTE” T-shirts at polls statewide to answer questions, said Julie Emery, executive director of Virginia Civic Engagement Table. Volunteers received training on Virginia law, she said. The group also will staff offices in Norfolk, Richmond and Northern Virginia with lawyers and experts who can consult with volunteers.

Conservative group Judicial Watch has said it is training “poll watchers” in Virginia “to expose and deter any voter fraud.”

Virginia’s voter registration deadline for the Nov. 8 general election has passed. The deadline for registered voters to request an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. today. The Virginia Department of Elections’ customer-service hours run 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The toll-free number is 800-552-9745.

Election protection hotlines:

1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682), bilingual line run by League of United Latin American Citizens

This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.

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