As a legal intern at Common Cause this fall, I had an exciting and important chance to work on Election Protection. Common Cause is part of a coalition of nonpartisan organizations that work to ensure that voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Unfortunately, many states recently have taken backward steps in revising their voting laws, from strict photo ID requirements to cutting back early voting hours. Other states have less ominous but still troubling shortcomings in their election systems, as detailed last month in Common Causes’ report “Did We Fix That?” While we work hard to change things prospectively, we recognize the need to respond to problems as they happen and help voters exercise their right to cast a ballot.
A major part of that work is the nationwide 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. With one call, voters can report and get help with voting problems. The line answers simple inquiries about the location of a voter’s polling place and tackles complicated problems all the way to working to stop illegal disenfranchisement. To get the job done on Election Day, the Election Protection coalition deploys dozens of staffers, lawyers, and volunteers in call centers around the country and on the ground in key states. Linking their work is an advanced database for reporting and tracking problems and responses. I was lucky enough to help out with a “beta test” of the whole operation on Election Eve. Most everything went off without a hitch and I was able to give feedback on how the data was being captured in my assigned states and how we were responding to problems.
Working on Monday also gave us insight into trends that cropped up on Election Day and helped us head off some potential problems. In several North Carolina counties for example, we discovered issues with touch screen voting machines recording votes cast for one candidate as vote for another (you may have heard about the issue on MSNBC.) Because the issue was flagged early, I was able to call local boards of election in problem areas and ensure that they had properly recalibrated machines so the issue didn’t arise on Election Day.
Democracy starts with all of us, and the fight for open, honest and accountable government goes on; I’m proud that I was able to join in Common Cause’s work protecting the rights of voters to participate in our elections.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections
Tags: Protect The Vote