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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, with National Civil Rights Organizations and State Advocates, Launch Election Protection 2016 to Educate, Empower and Engage Voters in First Presidential Election Since Weakened Voting Rights Act

For Immediate Release February 24, 2016

Washington, D.C.—With the Super Tuesday primaries less than one week away, Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, launched its 2016 effort to educate and protect voters throughout the upcoming election cycle. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law—including new President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke and National Spokesperson Hill Harper—will lead Election Protection’s efforts to connect with voters through a robust social media presence and a series of timely briefs and infographics in coordination with national partners and state advocates, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (AAJC), and Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). Election Protection’s multifaceted voter assistance programs will engage voters in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Virginia, California, Alabama and New York, among other states.

In this unprecedented presidential election year without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), voters can count on Election Protection to:

Educate: Election Protection releases the first report in a series describing the state of voting rights leading up to the November election. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the VRA, which prevented discriminatory changes to election laws. While many states have modernized voting procedures to expand voter access, an almost equal number have passed restrictive voting laws or implemented practices that disproportionately impact voters of color. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 21 states will have new voting restrictions in effect this year. Voters in a number of states, such as Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas, are challenging laws that adversely impact African American, Latino and other populations that continue to face discrimination. Election Protection profiles for those states can be found here: Georgia, Texas, North Carolina. The report, “#ProtectOurVote in 2016,” highlights a number of these key voting rights issues including:

  • Georgia: Voter purges and precinct consolidations in Hancock County disproportionately impact Black voters. In Macon-Bibb County, a precinct consolidation plan results in precinct closures in mainly Black communities and the County has failed to explain how it will staff and equip the larger consolidated Black precincts.
  • North Carolina: The passage of a sweeping elections law included restrictive voter ID requirements, cuts to early voting and the elimination of same day registration, adversely impacting voters in communities of color. The law was challenged in court by voters and community groups and the trial began in January 2016. In addition, advocates have filed suit against NC for failure to provide voter registration opportunities at departments of motor vehicles and public assistance agencies.
  • Texas: The TX Voter ID law was found to have a racially discriminatory effect and to be in violation of  Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by both a federal trial court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Texas petitioned the 5th Circuit to rehear the case, but the ID law remains in effect until then.

Engage: Election Protection will use #ProtectOurVote throughout the election cycle to engage American voters in telling the story of how they exercise their right to vote, as well as allow voters to contact Election Protection with voting-related questions and issues via major social media networks.

Empower: Election Protection offers three nonpartisan voter helplines where trained legal volunteers are available to address voters’ questions or problems with voter registration, early voting, voter I.D. requirements and other related voting issues to ensure that every vote counts. Voters can seek answers to their questions through the hotlines at the following times:

  • Toll-free English-language hotline: The Lawyers’ Committee’s 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) will be staffed live on Feb. 29 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. EST and on Super Tuesday, Mar. 1, from 6 a.m.-9:30 p.m. EST. The hotline will also be live on specific dates throughout the primary season.
  • Toll-free Spanish-language hotline: NALEO’s 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) is live year-round.
  • Toll-free Asian-language hotline: Voters needing assistance during the primary election season in various Asian languages can call and leave a message to AAJC and APIAVote’s 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683), and a volunteer will return their call.

“2016 marks the first presidential election in more than 50 years to be conducted without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act in place,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke.  “It is critical that voters across the nation understand their rights and have access to tools to help safeguard the right to vote. Through our 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, the Election Protection program helps secure the right to vote for minority communities across our nation.”

“Protecting the right to vote for all Americans during these critical times must be a top priority in our democracy,” said Lawyers’ Committee national spokesperson Hill Harper. “We must never forget that our vote is our voice. Our vote allows us hold elected officials accountable and to choose leaders who will best represent the interests of our communities.  I am looking forward to partnering with the Lawyers’ Committee to expand voter turnout and support its work to safeguard the rights of those seeking to participate in our democracy.”

“This will be the first presidential election in more than 50 years where Latinos will head to the polls without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” said Arturo Vargas, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund executive director. “The race for the White House will run through the Latino community in 2016. In the lead up to Election Day, we will be hard at work operating our toll-free bilingual hotline 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) to ensure Latino voters have the information necessary to make their voices heard at the ballot box and are able to report any problems they may experience at the polls.”

“The Voting Rights Act has long protected Asian Americans against discrimination in voting when, all too often, poll workers see them as ‘perpetual foreigners,’ and add hurdles to reaching the ballot box, such as demanding additional proof of citizenship or denying them language assistance,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act this election cycle, our election hotline, 888-API-VOTE, will be even more critical to ensure that communities can participate in our democracy without undue racially-motived obstacles.”

“The diversity of AAPI communities and the lack of the full protections of the Voting Rights Act leaves AAPI voters vulnerable at the ballot box,” said Christine Chen, executive director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). “Our election hotline, 888-API-VOTE, is ready to support AAPI voters in-language, and ensure that our rapidly growing electorate will have access to both voter education and voter protection. Our partners and other stakeholders across the country will actively use this hotline number in their voter education work as they assist our communities in accessing the ballot.”

The right to vote is a fundamental right that allows all Americans an opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions and to elect representatives that best fit each voter’s values, beliefs, hopes and dreams. Overtime, we have seen and experienced situations that have trampled on the fundamental right to vote. Those situations are still prevalent today and are still experienced by our voters,” said attorney Germaine Austin, who is a co-leader of the Georgia EP program. “The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and their coalition partners continue to serve as the shield and sword for every voter, to challenge attempts of voter suppression, and to safeguard the fundamental right to vote entrusted to all voters.”

“Whether it’s in registering to vote or casting a ballot, all Georgia voters deserve an election system that is accessible and fair,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. “Too often we are seeing actions taken by local officials that block the vote, particularly for voters in communities of color. That’s why our election protection and monitoring work is so important, so that we can alert the community and stop restrictive voting practices in their tracks.”

“We’re expanding our poll monitoring and hotline operations in North Carolina because a complex voter ID law goes into effect for the first time with the March 15th primary, plus a redistricting lawsuit has just invalidated part of the ballot,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina. “We’re training and deploying more than 700 volunteers who will be outside polling places to document problems and connect voters to an in-state call center staffed throughout early voting and Election Day. The revised I.D. law should allow every registered voter to cast a ballot that counts, with or without I.D., and we want to make sure that happens.”

“Unfortunately, in too many of our cities and rural areas in Texas there is a perception that voting is a privilege and not a right, and too often, rather than making it easier and more accessible, elections are administered as ‘gatekeeping’,” said voting rights expert and San Antonio attorney Jose Garza. “We see the damage that these restrictive practices have on voters all across the state, including many Latino voters, and one vote lost this way is one vote too many.”

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About Election Protection
Election Protection is the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its suite of hotlines, including the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline (866-687-8683) administered by the Lawyers’ Committee, 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) administered by NALEO Educational Fund, 888-API-VOTE (888-273-8683) administered by APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC and a dedicated team of trained legal and grassroots volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting. The coalition has more than 100 partners—including Advancement Project, Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, League of Women Voters of the United States, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, State Voices, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting Foundation—at the national, state and local levels and provides voter protection services nationwide. For more information about Election Protection and the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, please visit www.866ourvote.org.

About The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers' Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The Lawyers' Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 as it continued its quest of "Moving America Toward Justice." The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice.

For more information about the Lawyers' Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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