The Front Line of Protection at the Polls
Photo Courtesy: Fern Copas, Kirkland & Ellis
A lot can go wrong on election day. That's why a non-partisan coalition called Election Protection takes calls and helps voters from across the nation to make sure everyone who has a right to vote is able to. Law firms all over the country donate space every presidential election. Phones and computers are operated by lawyer volunteers to provide legal support to those that need it.
"The point is that Americans are supposed to be able to vote, we can't have mechanisms in place that prevent them from being able to vote if they're entitled."
That's Marjorie Press Lindblom, a lawyer at the law firm Kirkland and Ellis in New York City. She was on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the collation's largest partners, when Election Protection was created in the early 2000's. Lindblom said she and the other lawyers were inspired to take action after the election of 2000.
"When we saw that there were real problems with how votes were cast and counted in many states we wanted to make sure we did our part to try and to stop those problems from ever occurring again," Lindblom said.
Ever since then, thousands of volunteers field tens of thousands of calls every general election. Issues range from mundane...
"People call and say they've moved and they don't know where they're supposed to vote."
...to human error...
"One thing that sometimes happens is somebody shows up at a poll and the election worker will ask for IDs that they don't have. And we can get on the phone with the election workers and tell them exactly what their state's law requires and why it is that person should be allowed to vote. And then they can vote."
...to attempted voter suppression.
"Flyers had been put up at an apartment building telling people that if they were behind on their electric bills, they wouldn't be allowed to vote, if they were behind on child support payments they wouldn't be allowed to vote. And if they tried to vote, they would be arrested."
But there's one issue Lindblom isn't worried about, despite what Donald Trump has been saying on the campaign trail.
"We have seen no evidence of voter impersonation. It is a tiny, infinitesimal fraction of votes," Lindblom said. "I think the more serious problem is the people who are not permitted to vote. Their votes should count."
This election, Trump has been calling on his supporters to stake out polling places in order to stop people from, as he says, "rigging" the election. He even has a place to sign up to do just that on his website. This has many concerned about the prospect of voter intimidation. Lindblom is one of them. And she's especially worried about Pennsylvania, a battleground state her law firm will be in charge of.
"One of the things that concerns me for example is if people decide on their own that they should go out and challenged other voters because they don't look like they should be entitled to vote some place," Lindblom said. "That can cause real problems. We can have issues of voter intimidation, we could have issues of people being asked to show ID that state law doesn't require."
Lindblom encourages anyone who encounters problems this election to call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.