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Mural by Tyanna Buie, Shepard Fairey, Niki Johnson, Tom Jones, Claudio Martinez, and Dyani Whitehawk

Civil Rights and liberties

Securing the Right to Vote

On November 2 and 3 (Election Day), the firm once again managed one of several national voter hotlines in an effort to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in the political process. Partnering with Election Protection, a nationwide, nonpartisan voter protection coalition led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the firm recruited more than 240 legal professionals, including firm lawyers, support staff, and alumni, to answer calls from voters in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

The firm has a long history of working to advance voting rights through its partnership with Election Protection. This was the third time the firm managed a voter hotline during a presidential election, but the first time it had to do so in an entirely remote setting due to the pandemic. Volunteers had to adapt to new technology, answering voters’ calls through their home computers while escalating issues to a virtual command center that, in turn, contacted local elections officials and advocates who could address issues in real time at the polling places.

The pandemic created additional challenges, as the states adopted emergency measures to help voters cast their ballots safely during the public health emergency. Such measures included, for example, the automatic distribution of mail-in ballots (in New Jersey) or mail-in ballot applications (in Maryland) to all active registered voters, the use of secure ballot drop-boxes, a reduction in the number of polling places, more reliance on paper ballots, and the increased use of online systems to register to vote and track mail-in ballots.

These emergency measures and the use of novel systems, combined with other consequences of COVID- 19–a shortage of experienced poll workers, the consolidation of polling locations, and higher than normal numbers of voters with medical emergencies–created administrative challenges that affected whether and how voters cast ballots. Voters relied on Election Protection more than ever to help them cast their votes. In 2020, Election Protection hotline volunteers assisted 246,000 voters nationwide, a significant increase from the previous general election in 2016.

The pandemic did not deter the firm from stepping up to assist voters. Despite the new challenges arising from an all-remote operation, our volunteers answered thousands of calls on November 2 and 3, and in the weeks leading up to the election when early voting had begun in many states. Voters called to learn about election procedures, to ask whether and where they could vote, and to report issues that threatened disenfranchisement. Our call center was able to resolve myriad issues, including reports of voter intimidation, long lines and delayed openings/early closures at polling places, barriers faced by voters with disabilities and medical issues, misinformation from and misconduct by poll workers, and improper electioneering.

Since Election Day, the firm has been working closely with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU of New Jersey, Disability Rights New Jersey, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the Delaware-New Jersey National Lawyers Guild, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice to compile and organize data collected by the call center for use in advocacy work to improve New Jersey’s procedures in future elections. In addition, firm volunteers continued their commitment to protecting the right to vote by participating in Election Protection call centers for the Georgia Senate run-off elections on January 5, 2021.

In 2020, Election Protection hotline volunteers assisted 246,000 voters nationwide, a significant increase from the previous general election in 2016.

Securing the Right to Vote.
Illustration by Rae Hsu