(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – More than 228,800 callers accessed the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline between Jan. 1 and Election Day. The Election Protection hotline provided front-line support for voters across the country throughout the 2020 election cycle.
The top three categories of complaints received on Election Day concerned polling place access, voter intimidation and photo ID or registration issues. This year, the peak season for Election Protection occurred during the month of October, aligning with the fact that more than 100 million Americans voted by mail ballot or during the early voting period. While Election Day presented challenges for some voters, the intensity of these issues was not as grave as problems experienced during the primary, early and absentee voting phase of the 2020 election season.
With 228,800 calls handled between Jan. 1 and Nov. 3, 2020, the Election Protection program received no claims of vote irregularities or illegalities.
This year, the Election Protection program activated a record number of 42,000 trained legal volunteers to help address the needs of and barriers faced by voters and would-be voters this election season.
“The 2020 election season, occurring amid a pandemic, laid bare the incredibly fractured way in which states conduct elections across the country,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “While Election Day presented some challenges for voters, the most intense moments of the general election season were experienced prior to Election Day. Voters navigated barriers to vote–by–mail, long lines at early voting sites, robocalls, burdensome requirements such as notary and witness restrictions in some states, access to drop boxes, premature deadlines for returning absentee ballots and failure to provide notice and opportunity to cure minor mail ballot issues.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law worked to help voters overcome these barriers by filing nearly three dozen voting rights lawsuits, conducted legal advocacy to encourage states to relax deadlines and restrictions and carried out voter education to empower voters about their options to participate this season.
The Election Protection 866-OUR-VOTE hotline experienced nearly a 100% increase in traffic compared to 2016. Additional language hotlines operated by core partner organizations, and more than two dozen law firm-based command centers helped to meet the extraordinary needs of voters.
However, voters in some parts of the country faced extraordinary barriers in 2020. States such as Texas and Tennessee that limited access to mail ballots and states such as Texas and Ohio that restricted the number of drop boxes presented significant obstacles for voters. Voters in areas including the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan region, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and elsewhere experienced long lines resulting from insufficient numbers of early voting sites or insufficient numbers of polling places during the primary election.
Robocalls and other forms of disinformation campaigns were also prevalent. Racist robocalls that were aimed at intimidating Black voters were sent to 85,000 Black Americans in Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan and New York before Election Day. Robocalls were also made to voters in 14 states telling them to stay home and stay safe. Texts, emails and calls were sent to Black voters in Florida telling them they were being watched, and in Maryland, voters reported receiving communication from people pretending to be DEA agents, who said they couldn’t vote because their social security number was used in a drug deal.
Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, provided live assistance that involved:
- More than 42,000 legal volunteers and 25,000 grassroots organizers;
- Calls from more than 228,800 voters between Jan. 1 and Election Day through its suite of hotlines; and
- Assistance rendered to voters in every region of the country, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, overseas citizens and military voters.
Prior to Election Day, Election Protection and the national Lawyers’ Committees’ Voting Rights Project made an extensive effort to increase the accessibility of voting across the country. Lawsuits that were filed in Ohio and Texas attempted to expand drop box and curbside voting; challenges to restrictions on eligibility to vote by mail were lodged in Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee; and suits seeking additional protections for voters whose ballots were rejected were filed in Ohio and South Carolina. We were able to help stop a voter roll purge in Fulton County, Georgia; extend the voter registration deadline in Virginia after a cut cable caused the website to crash on the final registration day; eliminate the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots in Alaska; and stop the rejection of absentee ballots for alleged signature mismatch in South Carolina. And jurisdictions such as Kentucky and Mississippi broadened the availability and protections for absentee ballots after our suits were filed.
Since 2001, Election Protection has been the go-to-resource for voters seeking comprehensive non-partisan assistance with navigating the voting process or overcoming difficulties at the polls. Election Protection is the country’s largest and longest-running non-partisan voter protection effort.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (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 principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.