Commentary: Know the Voter VIP Before Election Day

If you are the victim of voter intimidation, report it immediately.

Posted: 10/30/2012 08:37 AM EDT

Getting out the vote and making sure voters have the right information is always a challenge, but the push to ensure a smooth voting process for the 2012 election has been more like a roller coaster ride.

Since the 2010 election, there were a number of attempts to change voting laws, with politicians in some states restricting the ability of some Americans to vote by specifying the form of identification required to vote and cutting the number of days when citizens can vote early. These changes would have mostly affected low income, minority, veteran and elderly voters, or voters with disabilities. A number of intimidating billboards went up, which have since come down, in areas where the number of minority voters is high in an attempt to deter people from turning up to vote.

Because of the work of groups like the Election Protection Coalition and the NAACP many of the laws that make it more difficult for people to vote have been overturned or blocked for 2012. 

But reports about aggressive groups trying to intimidate or suppress eligible voters from casting a ballot continue to roll in. They are disturbing. Election Protection has recently received reports of a new tactic – live telephone calls to registered voters, misinforming them that they can vote by telephone. In no state is it possible to do this and any household receiving a call like this should record it if possible, write down the number if it is available and report it immediately to Election Protection's 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline or contact the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. These calls are being investigated and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Given the confusion around the changes to election law – and the changes to the changes to election law – as well as voter suppression efforts and problems with our antiquated voter registration system, the public is understandably confused. Getting the right information to voters so they know what to expect and what to do at the polls – and where to go should their rights be infringed upon – is critical, especially now.

Voting is easy if you know the right steps. Ahead of Election Day, voters need to be “Voting VIP’s”:

1.       Verify your voter registration status to ensure you can vote.

2.       Make sure you have the right Identification and know your rights with regard to providing identification, as laws vary from state to state.

3.       Confirm your Polling station and precinct. It may not be the same place as you’ve voted in the past.

The Election Protection Coalition is here to help. The 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline is open to answer voters’ questions and concerns. In addition, the Election Protection website,, is available to provide information about voting procedures in every state and voters can access all the information they need to vote at their fingertips with our new smartphone app by texting OURVOTE to 90975. 

Election Day is just a week away. It is expected to be a very close race. Make sure you know the proper procedures and that you know your rights. Every vote will count.

Eric Marshall is the co-leader of Election Protection and Manager of Legal Mobilization at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.              

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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  (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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