Trends Show Voters’ Concerned about Constables, Language Access
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Nov. 3, 2020) — In the second of a series of Election Day updates, the nonpartisan Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition reports that it has received more than 2,500 calls to its toll-free hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, as of 4 p.m. today.
By comparison, the coalition received 1,340 in the June primary election. Since launching in October for the general election, the hotline has logged more than 20,000 tickets.
“This is exactly what election protection is about — making sure voters know their rights and have a nonpartisan resource to turn to where they can get their questions answered and find an ally who will ensure they get to cast their vote without interference,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, which is heading up the coalition effort in Pennsylvania.
Additional updates will be provided.
As with the morning hours, most of the calls and activities are relatively normal for any election year, although lines remain long in many polling locations because of the large number of registered voters and high in-person turnout.
Two new trends relate to calls about state constables near polling places and language access for non-English-speaking residents. Voters in Berks and York counties reportedly left waiting lines when they learned translator services were not available or insufficient.
Voters from several counties, including Cumberland, Dauphin and Lehigh, called to say they found the presence of constables intimidating because they were wearing bullet-proof jackets, possessing weapons in full display, or actually engaging with voters waiting to vote. The coalition flagged these issues to the Department of State (DOS).
“Nothing should stand between an eligible voter and the ballot box,” said Salewa Ogunmefun, Civic Engagement & Political Manager, Center for Popular Democracy. “Our Vote Guardians are a crucial line of defense against impediments to voters making themselves heard.”
The coalition’s Vote Guardian program has on-the-ground volunteers wearing identifiable colors on the lookout for any threats of real or perceived intimidation to deescalate the situation and serve as a frontline defense for voters. There have been no reports of intimidation.
“Voting is our chance to make our voices heard in our democracy,” said Sara Mullen, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We are doing everything we can to ensure every eligible voter has the freedom to exercise that right today.”
The coalition is staffing a toll-free hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, with volunteer lawyers who are trained on election law. The coalition also has about 2,000 volunteer poll monitors as well as a Vote Guardian program specifically to help anyone who witnessed attempts to intimidate voters at the polls. More than 850 volunteers are looking for and responding to social media posts from Pennsylvania voters with questions or problems.
About the Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition:
The coalition is led by Common Cause Pennsylvania and includes ACLU-Pennsylvania, Keystone Votes, University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, All Voting is Local, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Fair Elections Center, CASA, Make the Road Pennsylvania, One Pennsylvania, Committee of 70, SEAMAAC, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), Pennsylvania Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and the National Urban League.