Election Protection Hotline fielded calls from Illinois voters reporting problems at the polls

CHICAGO — Election Protection, the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition and led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, provided live assistance to hundreds of Illinois primary voters Tuesday through its 866-OUR-VOTE hotline.
With contested statewide races for governor and attorney general, in addition to federal and local elections, voters were able to get real time support from trained Election Protection volunteers who responded to questions about election security, ballot access, Election Day registration, and Illinois’ new automatic voter registration law. Local volunteers with Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which is part of the national Election Protection coalition, in preceding weeks were also placed in Cook County Jail to monitor the voting process for eligible voters in pre-trial detention.
“Strengthening democracy requires taking bold action to make it easier for Americans to participate in elections. While we applaud Illinois for enacting automatic voter registration to make it easier for eligible citizens to participate in the electoral process, this law still needs to be fully implemented in order to reduce barriers to the ballot box,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“It is clear that ballot access and electioneering remain ongoing issues in Illinois, one of the largest and most diverse states in the country. We urge state and local officials to obtain community input and address these problems ahead of the general election in November.”
“We are heartened that eligible voters throughout Illinois were able to access the tools they needed to participate in democracy. We thank local election officials who worked with us to resolve many problems on the ground,” said Ami Gandhi, director of Voting Rights and Civic Empowerment at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee. “We will continue engaging with local and statewide election officials to strengthen and improve access for all voters before the general election.”

Trained volunteers identified a number of problems faced by Illinois voters, including:

  • Concern over letters being mailed to southwest suburban areas with significant populations of color, shaming voters based on their alleged voting history.
  • Electioneering – campaigning and pressuring of voters by partisan campaigns.
  • Equipment failure – many old voting machines across Illinois jurisdictions caused delays which resulted in voters losing confidence and leaving the polls without voting.
  • Delayed opening of polling places due to late setup and poll worker shortages.
  • Barriers for people with disabilities accessing their polling places.

Throughout the year and during every election cycle, the Election Protection coalition confronts significant barriers to voter participation. The coalition will continue assisting voters throughout the 2018 election cycle to ensure voters can participate in our democracy.
“Illinois is ahead of the curve when it comes to voter access, but we should not overlook our history of disenfranchising communities of color and low-income voters, and the vestiges of that era that unfortunately still occur every election,” said Gandhi. “Our Election Protection attorneys are here as resource for all Illinois voters facing barriers to the ballot.”

Election Protection, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition. Through its suite of hotlines, including the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline (866-687-8683)administered by the Lawyers’ Committee, 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) administered by NALEO Educational Fund, 888-API-VOTE (888-273-8683)administered by APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC and a dedicated team of trained legal and grassroots volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting. The coalition has more than 100 partners — including Advancement Project, Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, League of Women Voters of the United States, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, State Voices, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting Foundation — at the national, state and local levels and provides voter protection services nationwide. For more information about Election Protection and the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, please visit www.866ourvote.org.