Non-partisan organizations available to assist individuals encountering problems on Election Day. “Voter Empowerment” cards available in English and Spanish.RICHMOND, VA. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP have established hotlines for voters who run into problems on Election Day and are distributing informational cards describing voters’ rights at the polls. The two rights’ groups are also available to help with voter registration problems.
The decision to inform voters of their rights and to provide legal assistance stems from the experiences of the NAACP and the ACLU. Last year, the ACLU of Virginia provided legal representation to several William and Mary students who were denied the right to register for local elections. Both the NAACP and the ACLU objected to the posting of armed police officers at the polls in Chesterfield last November, and joined forces again this spring to pressure the Chesterfield registrar to count the votes of persons who had applied to register at DMV but whose applications were not forwarded to the registrar.
The double-sided, pocket-sized "voter empowerment" cards inform voters of their rights under Virginia law once they reach the polls. The hotline will enable voters to contact someone at the NAACP or the ACLU on Election Day if they feel they have been illegally denied the right to vote. The NAACP hotline number is 804/321-5678. The ACLU number is 804/644-8080.
Referring to recent news reports concerning the large number of voter applications being rejected by the Norfolk registrar, King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the NAACP in Virginia, said: “If the problems we encounter at the polls are anything like the problems we have seen with registration this year, Election Day could be a long one for voters. But we are prepared to help.”
ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis said, “Voters in Virginia can overcome most obstacles by taking a quick glance at their empowerment card. If that is not sufficient, a phone call to the NAACP or the ACLU will get them in touch with a lawyer immediately.”
The empowerment card lists important rights that voters have under Virginia law, many of which are not widely know. Some examples are:
- Voters will be asked to produce some form of identification at the polls, but they have a right to vote even if they do not have an ID with them. They simply need to ask for an “Affirmation of Identity” form.
- Voters have a right to cast a “Conditional Ballot” even when their names do not show up on the registration rolls. It will be determined later if the voter was properly registered and the vote is to be counted.
- Voters who are listed on registration rolls but who are told they are ineligible by a poll worker need only ask for an “Affirmation of Eligibility” form.
- Voters with a disability or who have trouble reading or writing are entitled to help inside the voting booth from a friend, relative or poll worker.
- Voters who moved after last year’s election but failed to register in their new precincts, have the right to return to their old precincts to vote.
- Voters need not feel hurried in the voting booth. There is no limit on the time they can spend there.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 King Salim Khalfani, Executive Director, Virginia State Conference NAACP, 804-321-5678