Local, State and National Organizations Join Forces to Protect Access to the Ballot Box
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NASHVILLE – With early voting beginning on Wednesday, October 17, numerous state, local and national organizations have joined forces to educate, empower and mobilize voters. The non-partisan coalition, including Tennessee Citizen Action, the ACLU of Tennessee, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, NAACP-Nashville Chapter, the League of Women Voters of Nashville, and several Vanderbilt University Law School student groups, is collectively protecting access to the ballot box through statewide distribution of voter education materials, poll watching, student early voting mobilization and a voter hotline.
“Our joint, non-partisan, multi-pronged campaign empowers Tennessee voters by giving them the tools, resources and protection they need to cast their ballots and determine the future of this country,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN). “There is no more important right in our democracy than the right to vote and yet this election season numerous obstacles have been set up that make it more difficult to vote, especially for people of color, students and seniors.”
While different member organizations have taken the lead on various campaign elements, collectively the campaign includes:
- Operation Wake-up and Vote Early (W.A.V.E.) – Students from colleges and universities across Nashville will gather on Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. at the Davidson County Election Commission office (800 2nd Avenue South, Nashville) to exercise their right to vote. There will also be a rally with a free cookout and music from local radio station 101.1 The Beat Jams to support the students and educate bystanders. This student-led, non-partisan event is being organized by students from Meharry, Vanderbilt, Fisk, Tennessee State University, Belmont and American Baptist College.
“We want to not only educate and empower young voters, but also stand in solidarity with all those who might be affected by the new Photo ID to Vote law,” said Jane Mantey from Meharry Medical College, an Operation: W.A.V.E. organizer. “Operation: W.A.V.E., will allow us to do that by directly confronting the new photo ID law and setting precedents for any challenges that voters may face on November 6, 2012.”
- Election Hotline – A special election hotline number has been set up to help solve voting problems and answer any questions voters may have as they go to the polls. The hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (for Spanish speakers; administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund) will be open through early voting (October 17 – November 1) and on Election Day. Voters from Middle Tennessee can call 615-852-5525.
- Poll Watching – The coalition partners have launched a non-partisan poll-watching initiative for Davidson County. Poll watchers will be properly trained and credentialed to monitor the vote and protect the rights of all voters at key polling places. Many different poll watching shifts are available during early voting and on Election Day to accommodate busy schedules. To volunteer to be a poll watcher, please visit: http://www.tnca.org/volunteer.
- Voter Empowerment Resources – Numerous free public education brochures have been designed to equip voters with an understanding of their voting rights under Tennessee and federal law and to provide tips for handling any problems they may encounter at the polls. Available resources include: “Getting Ready to Vote: What You Need to Know Before Election Day;” “The 2012 Voter Empowerment Card;” “TN’s New Photo ID Law;” “Get Your Right to Vote Back: A Guide to Voting with a Felony Conviction in Tennessee;” and “Provisional Ballots in 2012.” The documents can be ordered or downloaded at http://www.aclu-tn.org/voting-rights-resource-center.html. Approximately 35,000 “Let Me Vote” resources have been distributed across the state to date.
“We all share in the responsibility for the integrity of our elections,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “and this historic protection effort shows that in Tennessee we take that responsibility very seriously.”
ACLU-TN is a statewide organization at the forefront of civil liberties battles across Tennessee, employing a range of strategies including advocacy, education, legislative lobbying and litigation to ensure that Tennesseans’ constitutional freedoms are protected. An affiliate of the National ACLU, ACLU-TN is a private, non-profit, non-partisan membership organization.
Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization. Its mission is to work tirelessly to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a national organization dedicated to securing equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African-Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities.
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