Virginia’s ACLU and NAACP Team Up to Help Voters on Election Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Civil Rights Groups Launch Hotlines, Distribute “Voter Empowerment Cards”
RICHMOND, VA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP announced today that they have launched two hotlines for voters who run into problems on Election Day. The groups are also distributing cards that inform Virginians of their rights at the polls, and have offered to provide legal assistance to voters whose rights are violated.
The state groups say they established their voter protection initiatives based on voting irregularities and violations in Virginia in recent years. Both groups objected to the posting of armed police officers at the polls in Chesterfield in 2004, and last year joined forces to put pressure on the Chesterfield registrar to count the votes of persons who had applied to register at the DMV but whose applications were not forwarded to the registrar.
The groups said that they routinely receive complaints from voters across the state who have been turned away from polling places because they do not have identification with them. However, under Virginia law, voters do not need to be carrying identification when they show up at the polls, although such voters may be asked to sign an affirmation of identity form.
The ACLU has also received complaints from voters who were sent home because they were wearing buttons or t-shirts with political messages. While Virginia election law prohibits “electioneering” in polling places, this refers only to attempts to persuade voters to take a stand for or against something currently on the ballot. Other social or political messages worn as clothing or an accessory should be allowed in polling places.
Voters are sometimes turned away because their names do not appear on the voter registration rolls. But the groups note that every voter has a right to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day even if his or her name is not on the voter rolls. It will later be determined whether they were properly registered. If it turns out the registration glitch was the fault of the state, then the vote will be counted.
The double-sided, pocket-sized “voter empowerment” cards being distributed by the groups inform voters of these and other rights under Virginia law. The hotlines will enable voters to contact someone at the NAACP or the ACLU on Election Day if they feel they have been illegally denied the right to vote. The NAACP hotline number is (804) 321-5678. The ACLU number is (804) 644-8080.
The national ACLU Voting Rights Project will also maintain a toll-free hotline on Election Day. Voters are encouraged to report any voting irregularities or complaints to 1-877-523-2792, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST.
For more information on the national ACLU efforts, go to www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/27246prs20061101.html
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