Multilingual Resource for American Voters
with Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Despite COVID-19 concerns, record voter turnout is expected in the 2020 presidential election.
Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, discusses “Election Protection,” a multilingual resource providing support to American voters as they prepare to cast their ballots.
Oct 14, 2020
Anderson: American citizens are preparing to exercise their right to vote in a presidential election that will certainly look a lot different than elections in the past. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. With potential record voter turnout anticipated, there's a lot of confusion related to voting during the pandemic, leaving voters with a lot of questions and a lot of concerns. That is where Kristen Clarke comes in. She is the president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and she joins me now to talk about a multilingual resource for American voters. Kristen, thanks for being here.
Clarke: Oh, thank you for having me.
Anderson: So, the resource I'm talking about, it's a hotline. It's 866-OUR-VOTE. So, does that work, Kristen? Who runs it? And what types of calls are you getting from people who are using it?
Clarke: So, Election Protection is the nation's largest and longest-running nonpartisan voter protection program. We actually have been in place since 2001, so we've been going two decades strong to work to help voters participate in our process. We work to empower voters with all of the information that they may need to participate in our elections. And by way of the hotline, we're dealing with all kinds of questions, people who are trying to figure out how to get registered to vote, how to get their hands on an absentee ballot. They're trying to figure out the times for early voting in their state. They're trying to verify their polling site location. So we're virtually a one-stop shop that voters and would-be voters can turn to for information that they need to participate in elections.
Anderson: This election's happening during COVID-19, which presents a whole other set of problems, and I'm wondering how that sort of changed your work and changed some of the questions that you're fielding from people.
Clarke: Yeah, the pandemic has upended our lives, and it's upended our elections. And what we found is that we're hearing from a lot of voters who are trying to figure out how they can vote in the safest and most secure way possible. Many people are tackling vote by mail for the very first time. There are people with preconditions, people who have been literally impacted by the pandemic, people who fear contracting COVID who want to understand how to vote by mail and how to do so successfully this season. So those are one of the kind of biggest category of complaints that we're dealing with in 2020.
Anderson: There's also going to be the issue of problems at the polls and other issues, hot spots. How do you sort of identify where these places are, and then what do you do when you get reports of them?
Clarke: So, the Election Protection program actually encompasses a coalition of hundreds of local, state, and national organizations, and, so, many of them serve as our boots on the ground who report problems immediately when they're surfacing at polling sites. We're able to swoop in very swiftly, work with election officials to try and troubleshoot and resolve those problems in real time. And we escalate and take further action if needed. Our goal is to make sure that every eligible American who goes to vote is able to do so successfully.
Anderson: And what about the voters themselves? There's people out there saying, you know, "I'm not sure what the best way to vote is. Is it vote by mail? Should I try to go to the polls?" What advice do you have for them?
Clarke: You know, what we've found is that it's important for people to be armed with information so that they can make the best possible choice for them. It's a deeply personal choice how you choose to vote, but, really, you need the information about the options that are available in your particular state. So, we have an army of over 20,000 trained legal volunteers who are there to do just that, to let voters know what their options are. And, again, what we've found is that in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, there are more voters who are choosing the option of voting by mail this season.
Anderson: Certainly a lot of work to be done. And, Kristen, if people want to find out more about that work, what is your website? -They can visit our website at https://urldefense.com/v3/__http://www.866ourvote.org__;!!CQl3mcHX2A!TLApNlrFWivzVOZ-kuOWigGA9Xgsg83T1NDg_TsbgwFWnABfvEuP_vOGwybljLbOu3g$ . It's a wealth of resources and information. It also has information on the other sister hotlines that provide service to the public in Spanish, in Arabic, and in several Asian-American languages. But what we really want is for people to pick up the phone and call. Call us at 866-OUR-VOTE. We want to hear from you. We want to make sure that folks are registered. We want to make sure that people are armed with all of the information that they need to get out and make sure that their voice is heard in 2020.
Anderson: Kristen Clarke, thank you so much for being here.
Clarke: Thank you so much for having me.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to visit ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.