HOUSTON – Civil rights advocates are keeping a close watch on early voting that began this week in the presidential election to help Texans fully exercise their right to cast a ballot.
With higher than usual turnout expected for the election on Nov. 8, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has set up a toll free Election Protection Hotline to help voters navigate changes in the state’s Voter ID Law and to guard against voter suppression.
Satinder Singh, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, says his group has trained additional hotline volunteers in anticipation of a high volume of calls.
“The voting requirements have changed in Texas regarding the voter ID Law and for people who are experiencing problems once they’re at the polls to see if we can get it resolved right then and there, and if not, for them to register a complaint,” he explains.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of the restrictive Texas Voter ID Law, saying it discriminates against minorities.
Following that, a federal judge ordered state elections officials to publish information, both before the election and at polling places, explaining the new ID rules to voters.
Singh says after just three days of early voting, the hotline already is getting complaints that elections officials are posting old voter ID instructions instead of the new ones in some polling places.
“We are definitely doing things that are new, and part of that’s driven by the unique nature of the election and also by the ever changing photo voter ID law in Texas,” Singh states.
He says the ACLU also became concerned after Republican candidate Donald Trump called on his followers to “watch the polling places closely for illegal voting.”
“There’s also been another consequence as a result of some of the irresponsible rhetoric, in that people are fearful that their ballot will not be registered as a vote,” Singh adds.
He says the goal of the hotline is to provide the information people need to cast a ballot, although he adds that the ACLU will not hesitate to bring legal action if voters are denied their rights.
The hotline is available at 1-888-507-2970 or go to aclutx.org
Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service