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The Voice of the Black Community


Need ballot help? Operators are standing by
Nonpartisan groups open toll-free voter hotline
Published Thursday, October 18, 2012 3:44 pm
by Herbert L. White

Help for ballot questions and complaints are but a phone call away.

Election Protection, a nonpartisan voter protection coalition, has launched a 24-hour toll-free number – (866) OUR-VOTE – to help voters address problems and answer questions. The hotline will have live operators from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. during the early voting period Oct. 18-Nov. 3 and from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6. 

The initiative is headquartered at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C.

Voters face changes in 2012 with new legislative districts and early voting part of the political landscape. With communities split to accommodate legal requirements such as the Voting Rights Act, call center organizers expect plenty of questions.

“The new district lines mean many voters will see strange names on their ballot,” said Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina, which will help operate the hotline’s call center during the early voting period. “They may even get a different ballot from a neighbor down the street because of how the new district lines zigzag through neighborhoods. About 2 million voters live in precincts divided by district lines and you’re 50 percent more likely to live in one of those split precincts if you’re black.”

Hall said the call center will also track allegations of intimidation, noting a report last week by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights indicating about 300 volunteers in North Carolina are affiliated with True the Vote, a Texas-based group that has challenged voters.

Identification isn’t required to cast a ballot in North Carolina – a Republican-backed bill to require voters to show a photo ID before voting was vetoed earlier this year.

“People should not be intimidated,” Hall said. “We have the same rights and procedures that we had in 2008. Even the voter ID rules are the same; in general, you don’t need to present a photo ID when you go vote,” he said.

In addition to the call center, Democracy NC has distributed 300,000 wallet cards with voting tips and a coalition of nonpartisan groups have built a website to answer questions about the voting process, including previews of ballots, locating early voting sites and registration confirmation.

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