As Americans cope with feelings of rage, loss, and grief this week, several states held their primary elections yesterday. In Indiana, our legal volunteers answered hundreds of calls to the Election Protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) from voters across two dozen counties who needed help casting their ballots.
Working in coordination with the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Common Cause Indiana, and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, our staff and volunteers heard from voters who were frustrated by last-minute changes, long lines, intimidation, confusing rules for absentee ballots, and inaccessible polling places.
These problems were especially apparent in Marion County, where voters faced barriers to the absentee ballot process and had to turn to in-person voting. In Indianapolis, home to a large Black community, voters had to contend with long lines and confusion owing to both the pandemic and high tensions between police and protesters. Less than 10 percent of Marion County’s polling places from the previous election were kept open.
One Indianapolis woman, 60-year-old Angela Horne, called our hotline after driving herself and her mother to four different polling places trying to vote. Each had long lines of voters waiting as much as an hour to get inside. Due to her mother’s Parkinson’s disease and her own health issues, Angela knew that they would not be able to stand that long in the hot sun.
“Since I’ve been able to vote, I have always voted,” said Angela. “It was frustrating that today I wasn’t going to be able to vote […] I’d never experienced this before and neither had my mom.”
Our pro bono volunteers advised Angela and other voters of their right to accommodations, and we advocated directly to election officials. Nevertheless, some Indiana voters with disabilities were certainly disenfranchised.
With Indiana having one of the earliest closing times in the nation, we received many calls from voters facing barriers as they rushed to the polls after work. Several voters in Indianapolis called us from outside a polling place where a bus crash had blocked traffic for 45 minutes, preventing voters from being able to get in. The voters were being told that because it was a few minutes after the 6pm closing time, they would not be allowed to vote. Our legal volunteers instructed them to stay in line and worked with Common Cause Indiana field volunteers and local election personnel to allow the voters to cast their ballots.
In this challenging climate, we are more grateful than ever to the volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to make our Election Protection work possible. Please consider donating to keep this program strong as we head into November 2020.
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