National: Biden Campaign Names National Director for Voter Protection | Kat Stafford/Associated Press

Joe Biden has hired a national director for voter protection, a role his campaign says will focus broadly on voter rights, including the disenfranchisement of people of color amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign said Rachana Desai Martin will join its legal team, serving also as senior counsel. Martin, who has a strong background in voter protection work, previously worked as chief operating officer of the Democratic National Committee and as the DNC’s director of civic engagement and voter protection. The pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, especially black Americans who represent an outsize number of infections and deaths. An Associated Press analysis last month found more than one-third of those who have died are African American. The push for voter protection rights has only intensified in recent weeks, after some primary elections, including Milwaukee’s on April 7, sparked concern that voters were forced to wait in long lines to cast their ballots. Some health officials have warned the coronavirus could spread at polling places.

Alabama: Machine glitch, ballot confusion cause snags on election day | Montgomery Advertiser

Voters waited in a long line with filled U.S. Senate ballots in hand Tuesday morning after a new voting machine broke down. That left the Frazer United Methodist Church polling place in Montgomery with one working tabulation machine for part of the morning. A poll worker at the site said the crowd was also bigger than expected, which made the problem worse. Workers had fixed the problem before 10 a.m., according to Christopher Turner, the assistant director of elections for Montgomery County. “It’s all brand new equipment (being used) in Montgomery County for the first time,” Turner said. “It’s kind of a shakedown cruise.” But it was far from the only problem on election day in Alabama.

National: Lawyers’ Committee spearheading election protection efforts in communities across U.S. | Wisconsin Gazette

With Election Day in many states less a week away, Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, is ramping up its efforts to safeguard voting rights across the country. Multiple states have attempted to impose severe restrictions on the right to vote. While courts have batted down many of these efforts to limit the franchise, the confusion surrounding recent rulings and the lack of accurate information could disrupt voting this election cycle. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is spearheading Election Protection’s efforts to protect voters this election cycle, using hotlines, field monitors and voter education, as well as its expansive network of national partners and state advocates, to respond to any questions or concerns voters may have.

National: Voter hotline expects to rack up record number of calls | TMN

The largest nonpartisan voter hotline is expecting to receive a record number of calls regarding problems at polling stations across the nation. “In Texas we have seen confusion across the board in regards to the ID requirements that are in place for voters. In Florida we have received an uptick in the number of voter intimidation complaints,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said at news conference in Washington, D.C. The Election Protection Hotline, staffed by more than 8,000 volunteers, fielded about 5,500 calls by 9:30 am EST before all the polls were even open. As of 2:30 p.m., Clarke said the center received at least 20,000 calls. The states with the highest call volume were Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York. (Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are swing states.) Calls included voters reporting intimidation, late polling-location openings, and confusion by poll workers as to the identification required for different states.

National: Civil rights advocates work to prevent polling chaos  | The Washington Post

It’s 10 a.m. but the room is already warm with body heat and the smell of coffee. Behind the locked glass doors of a downtown Washington office, in a conference room outfitted with 20 phone lines, computer workstations and posters that try to make inspirational art out of single words such as “Dedication,” volunteers are fielding phone call after phone call. This is one of the front lines in one of the most contentious presidential elections in memory. It is one outpost of the Election Protection Coalition voter hotline, a volunteer-staffed nonpartisan network of organizations devoted to protecting the right to vote. The advocates behind the operation say they are worried that more than any presidential election in the past 50 years, the 2016 contest carries a pronounced risk for impropriety and mischief. They, too, like Donald Trump, worry that the election could be rigged. But not in the way the Republican nominee has insisted it will be — by “inner city” residents resorting to fraud to help elect Hillary Clinton. They are more concerned about a combination of ordinary and extraordinary voter confusion; a lack of pre-election federal oversight and the specter of in-person voter intimidation by Trump supporters.

National: Media launches joint war-room to spot voting problems | Politico

After spending 2016 trying to outmaneuver each other and deliver the next big break, hundreds of newsrooms are now engaged in unprecedented reporting partnerships to uncover barriers to voting and debunk fake news that can cause chaos and confusion on Election Day. The biggest of the new alliances is Electionland, a project involving more than 400 newsrooms across the country casting aside competitiveness to share real-time data and tips on everything from reports about long lines and voter intimidation to hoax tweets suggesting stuffed ballot boxes. New York-based journalism non-profit ProPublica created the free service earlier this year by partnering up with national desks at USA Today and The New York Times, as well as scores of local news organizations including the Arizona Republic, Miami Herald and the Virginian-Pilot. Participating reporters and editors are all connected to an online smorgasbord of story leads and sources culled from social media, text messages and a national telephone helpline that the public is using to report voting problems. “It’s an entire national newsroom, essentially only looking at problems facing people who vote,” said Jessica Huseman, a ProPublica senior reporting fellow.

National: Election Protection helps voters with call center technology | TechTarget

The peaceful transition of power every four or eight years is one of the hallmarks of American democracy. To make that transition happen, it’s up to the country’s population to partake in its democratic privilege and vote for the next president of the United States. Each presidential election brings many questions to voters, beyond which candidate shares their beliefs and principles. For some, it could be their first time voting. For others, questions could range from where the voting stations are located and if they are registered to vote. To help the American public answer these questions is the nonpartisan, nonprofit Election Protection, a nationwide organization staffed mostly by volunteers at inbound call centers that answer thousands of phone calls during the election cycle at its 866-OUR-VOTE number, as well as Spanish- and Asian-speaking lines. While calls vary in quantity throughout the year, Election Protection has to handle a huge spike leading up to a presidential election. The nonprofit is already seeing an uptick, with daily calls reaching the thousands, and it is expecting up to 100,000 calls nationwide the day before and day of the Nov. 8 vote. To combat the influx, Election Protection relies on call center technology to help answer and route the flood of calls.

Florida: Voting groups say Florida leads in calls to elections hotline | Tampa Bay Times

Elections officials told a woman in Miami who moved from a different county that she could not vote. A volunteer with voting rights groups saw a poll watcher at the North Miami Public Library confront people who asked for language assistance. In Hialeah, voters struggled to get translators. Voters elsewhere complain they haven’t received mail-in ballots they requested weeks ago. These were among the 1,700 calls by Florida residents through a national elections hotline — the highest number for any state. As the 2016 presidential race hurtles toward Tuesday’s finish line, complaints handled by the National Election Protection Hotline about early voting and mail ballots provide a possible glimpse of any confusion to come.

National: Voting rights group ramping up election protection efforts | USA Today

National and local voting rights activists, worried about threats to casting ballots nationwide, are setting up command centers, staffing hotlines and deploying thousands of monitors to polling sites across the country to ensure voters can get to the polls. “Folks are pretty much on high alert,’’ said Scott Simpson, director of media and campaigns for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 groups. “There is no election like this in modern history and we are taking every precaution that we can, within our means, to prevent intimidation and to make sure that folks know that they will be able to cast their ballots free from intimidation.’’ With talk about “rigged’’ elections in the presidential campaign and the Supreme Court’s rejection of a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, civil rights and voting rights activists say they’re concerned about possible shenanigans and roadblocks at the polls. Voting rights advocates are particularly worried about potential problems in states, mostly in the South, that used to be required to get approval or “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department before making any changes in election procedures because they had a history of discrimination at the polls. A 2013 Supreme Court decision — Shelby County v. Holder — threw out that provision. This will be the first presidential election since pre-clearance was eliminated in those states.

Voting Blogs: Monitoring the Vote With Electionland | ProPublica

There is no more essential act in a democracy than voting. But making sure that the balloting is open to all and efficiently administered has been, at best, a low priority for many state legislatures, a victim of misplaced priorities and, at times, political gamesmanship. Historically, newsrooms have focused on covering the outcome of Election Day, relegating voting snafus to be followed up later, if at all. Today we’re announcing Electionland, a project to cover voting access and other problems in real time. The issue is particularly urgent this election year, as states have passed laws that could affect citizens’ access to the ballot box. We’ll leave the horse race to others and focus on the ways in which problems prevent people from voting: Which voters are getting turned away (and why)? Where are lines so long that people are giving up? Is there actually any evidence of people casting fraudulent votes?

National: Scattered problems for voters at polling sites, especially in the South | MSNBC

As voters in 12 states head to the polls for Super Tuesday, there are scattered reports of election problems — especially in the South. Officials at Election Protection, a coalition of groups that runs an election-day hotline to help voters who encounter problems, say the phone lines have been busy, with about 1,500 calls as of around 5:45 p.m. ET. The highest volume came from Texas, Georgia and Alabama, with Virginia and Colorado also well represented. Many of the calls came from voters who have moved recently and want to know whether they can still vote at their old polling location, said Kristen Clarke, the executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which helps lead the effort.

National: Civil rights groups concerned restrictive laws will keep minorities from casting votes | Associated Press

With less than a week to go before “Super Tuesday,” a coalition of civil rights groups is working to make sure that everyone eligible can cast a vote. Election Protection, which represents more than 100 civil rights organizations across the U.S., is concerned with the recent surge of restrictive voting laws in some states following the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a Voting Rights Act provision. “We’ve come to see a lot of stress when it comes to accessing the ballot box,” Kristen Clarke, the executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a conference call Wednesday. “This is the first election in 40 years without the Voting Rights Act.”