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Local attorneys staff voting-rights hotline

November 2, 2010

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons User Jusino)

Mandi Rice, St. Louis Public Radio (2010-11-01)

As political groups across the country prepare to challenge voters’ eligibility, lawyers in St. Louis are working to make sure voters know their rights.

Dozens of attorneys will be staffing an Election Protection hotline on Tuesday to answer voter questions and ensure election laws are followed. It is legal to challenge a voter’s eligibility or identification, but challengers don’t have the final say on who can cast a ballot.

“We’re concerned that some challengers may not be fully trained on the instances where a challenge would be legitimate or that poll monitors, poll workers or voters might be confused and think they can’t vote simply because a challenge is raised to their eligibility,” said Denise Lieberman, a co-organizer of the non-partisan hotline.

Lieberman said that those denied the right to vote should request a provisional ballot and call the hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. If necessary, lawyers can be sent out to polling places to sort things out.

Election Protection can sometimes provide more help than government-sponsored hotlines, Lieberman said.

“Where the voter can simply call and report a complaint, they may not actually get to speak to someone, certainly not someone who can then be dispatched out to that polling place to advocate on behalf of the voter,” Lieberman said.

Voters can also call to verify that they are registered, locate their polling place and get information about ID requirements.

Election Protection is a national coalition, established after the 2000 election. It is supported in St. Louis by a coalition of two-dozen organizations, including the Missouri Bar Association. Voters around the country can get connected with local advice by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota for information in Spanish.

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