Election Protection Expands Access to the Ballot on Election Day 2016

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November 9th, 2016

Contact:         Timna Axel, Communications Associate 

                        Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

                        Phone: 312-888-4194

Chicago –The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (CLC) commends the hundreds of pro bono attorneys and voting rights advocates who protected the rights of voters all across Illinois and Indiana in yesterday’s general election. Leading the local team for Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, CLC trained more than 300 legal volunteers who answered over 1000 calls to the Chicago call center of the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline and monitored hundreds of polling places throughout Chicago and suburban counties. Many voters across Illinois utilized Election Day Registration (EDR), a critical tool CLC fought to preserve following a recent federal lawsuit challenge.

However, far too many voters experienced disenfranchisement by election judges, equipment failure, receipt of incorrect ballots, and voter intimidation. Numerous issues were resolved when lines of communication were open between Election Protection volunteers, voters, and election officials. 

Other problems point to the need for systemic reforms, including robust election judge training, voting modernization, improved protocols for mail-in ballots, access for voters with disabilities and limited English proficiency, redistricting reform, and fairness for voters interfacing with the criminal justice system. In one instance, a formerly incarcerated citizen in DuPage County was eligible to vote yesterday but was not able to verify his identity to register and vote, despite his repeated efforts to obtain ID from various government agencies.

“Registration barriers have been used to disenfranchise voters for hundreds of years in America, and that happened yesterday in Illinois and across the country,” said Ami Gandhi, Director of Voting Rights and Civic Empowerment of CLC. “That is why it is so critical to arm voters with accurate information and to deploy trained poll monitors so that every eligible voter, regardless of their race or political affiliation, can exercise their basic right to vote. I'm proud that our system used voter calls to inform our field efforts in real-time, which gave constant access to attorneys throughout the day.”

To provide up-to-date information to voters and attorneys, CLC published know-your-rights materials including new publications on EDR and Voting Rights Act language assistance at votingrightsillinois.org.

As our country moves forward from this contentious election season, CLC celebrates the diverse coalition of hundreds of Illinois legal professionals who united across party lines in the belief that all voters deserve access to the polls. With municipal elections approaching in April 2017 for many communities in Illinois, there is a continued need to protect voting rights in local races where every vote can make a difference.

“In addition to voter protection, a cornerstone civil rights issue, CLC’s broader civic empowerment initiatives seek to expand governmental transparency, and access to information, knowledge, and tools that create more opportunities for everyday people to engage with public institutions and processes. Now, more than ever, in Chicago and Illinois, we must take an unequivocal stand for openness, accountability, and participatory democracy,” said CLC Executive Director Bonnie Allen.