Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights partnered with national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, Kirkland & Ellis, and Illinois and Indiana-based non-partisan answer voters’ questions to the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. Chicago Lawyers’ Committee was honored to also partner with non-partisan civic organizations Common Cause Indiana, Indiana State Conference of the NAACP, and Count US Indiana.
Throughout the day on Tuesday, call lines were active and Election Protection volunteers had fielded numerous calls, assisted many voters, and coordinated with community partners on the ground to address problems on the spot. Some of the day’s first callers had concerns about polling places not being open on time or not labeled clearly as being open for voting; volunteers were able to redirect these early birds to ensure that they had access.
As the day progressed, several Hoosiers reached out with concerns about their voter registration status. Josh F. from Muncie had looked up his registration status online and learned he was listed as “inactive” due to a recent move within the same county, despite having voted in recent Indiana elections. He was worried that he had been purged from the rolls, but when he spoke with a hotline volunteer, he learned that he could complete an affidavit and cast a ballot at his prior precinct. Josh shared his story on social media, advising fellow voters with concerns “to reach out to places like 866-OUR-VOTE because they can get your feet pointed in the right direction and make sure you’re eligible to vote.”
Several voters called the hotline with concerns about campaigns who were electioneering and poll workers making inappropriately partisan or intimidating comments to voters. Again, trained Election Protection volunteers gathered information from callers and contacted election authorities to resolve the concerns. Election Protection volunteers also helped voters who were unsure of their right to participate in the primary election, answering questions from all voters regardless of political affiliation.
Unfortunately, due to Indiana’s restrictive election system, multiple eligible voters were blocked from being able to participate, including:
Voters with disabilities or health issues who faced obstacles to voting by mail and who were unable to vote in person;
Voters who were unable to meet the various technical requirements of the state’s photo ID and voter registration laws, even though they were longtime Indiana residents and eligible voters; and
Voters in pretrial detention who had missed the early deadlines for registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot.
One local organization that was active in protecting voters’ rights on Election Day was Count US Indiana, a non-partisan organization whose mission is to elevate citizens’ voices and foster inclusive, equitable political participation by encouraging a larger and more diverse voter turnout, educating citizens on voting rights and protections, combating voter suppression, and cultivating partnerships to create political equity. Count US Indiana provided non-partisan information about voters’ rights outside polling places and provided voters with water and snacks. The organization was approached by an election inspector due to a misinformed report. However, after they spoke with election officials, it was clear that all activities were nonpartisan and activities were permitted to continue. The election inspector and poll workers also thanked the organization for their efforts to support voters.
Ami Gandhi, Senior Counsel with Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights team, summed up the days efforts: “Voters faced unnecessary barriers today due to Indiana’s restrictive voter registration system and limited options for accessing the ballot. We commend Hoosiers for persevering through these obstacles and making their voices heard this Election Day.”
Cliff Helm, Program Counsel with Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights team, added: “We had numerous voters that called in and were determined to vote. The pro bono volunteers stepped up today and worked with voters in challenging situations to help ensure they could cast a ballot.”