Smartphones have revolutionized the way people around the world communicate and access information and offer applications, popularly known as apps, that range from the funny and weird to the inspired and educational. A coalition of voting rights advocates are hoping to use this 21st century information highway to help avoid any confusion about voting rights and new election laws and, yes, there's an app for that.
The Election Protection Smartphone App, which will became available on Aug. 9, was spearheaded by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials Educational Fund, New Organizing Institute, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting to provide information and access to resources that voters need to cast ballots in November.
"The wave of voter suppression legislation that crashed through state legislatures across the country since 2010 has really heightened a level of confusion for voters and it's more important than in past elections to ensure that they fully understand what they need to know and bring with them to vote on Election Day," Eric Marshall, manager of legal mobilization for the Lawyers' Committee, told BET.com.
The EP App enables voters to verify their registration; register to vote; find their polling place; and learn about any new voting rules and regulations in their state. Users also will be able to contact Election Protection by phone or email to ask questions and report problems registering to vote or casting ballots. The coalition hopes to reach 500,000 users through various social networking sites, as well as good old fashioned get out the vote efforts and community events.
"By launching the app, we've not only combined the information that's crucial for [people] to be able to vote this year, but we've put it in a format to meet them where they're most apt to seek information," Marshall said.
Barbara Arnwine, president and director of the Lawyers' Committee, said that the coalition wants everyone in the country to have verified their registration status by the end of September. Users are encouraged to not only access voter information for themselves, but also for family and friends.
"The beauty of the app is that the first thing that pops up after you input your information is whether your registration is active or inactive," she said, adding that the last thing anybody wants is to discover there's a discrepancy when they arrive at the polls. "But if they do have that problem they can call the [voter protection] hotline. One thing we're very good at is helping to resolve confusion between what the system says and what someone's actual registration status is."
Voters also are strongly urged to use the app and the hotline to report deceptive practices like robo-calls and flyers that provide inaccurate and false information and ultimately disenfranchise voters. Arnwine said the hotline already has been invaluable this year and many of the voting rights lawsuits the Lawyers' Committee has filed or intervened in are a result of information obtained from callers.
To download the app, text OURVOTE to 90975. The hotline number is 866-OUR-VOTE.
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(Photo: Courtesy if OurVote.org)