Voter empowerment cards available in English and SpanishRICHMOND, VA. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP are distributing informational cards describing voters’ rights and have established hotlines for voters who run into problems on Election Day.
The double-sided, palm-sized "voter empowerment" cards inform voters of their rights under Virginia law once they reach the polls. The hotline will enable voters to contact someone at the NAACP or the ACLU on Election Day if they feel they have been illegally denied the right to vote. The NAACP hotline number is 804/321-5678. The ACLU number is 804/644-8022.
The decision to inform voters of their rights and to provide legal assistance on Election Day stems from the experiences of the NAACP and the ACLU during past elections in Virginia.
"We are concerned that some voters are turned away from the polls because they are not fully aware of their rights under Virginia law," King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the NAACP in Virginia. "Voters with the empowerment card in their hands will know their rights and be able to assert them on Election Day."
Based on the Florida experience four years ago, as well as numerous other voting irregularities that have cropped up since, voters’ rights groups from across the country have mobilized in unprecedented force to make sure that election day 2004 goes smoothly and that those who have a right to vote will have their votes counted.
"This year, with large numbers of volunteers on alert, voters may be better protected than ever,” added ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Voters in Virginia can overcome most obstacles by taking a quick glance at their empowerment card or by finding a volunteer to help them outside many polling places. If that is not sufficient, a phone call to the NAACP or the ACLU will get them in touch with a lawyer immediately.”
The empowerment card lists important rights that voters have under Virginia law, many of which are not widely know. Some examples are:
- Voters will be asked to produce some form of identification at the polls, but they have a right to vote even if they do not have an ID with them. They simply need to ask for an “Affirmation of Identity” form.
- Voters have a right to cast a “Conditional Ballot” even when their names do not show up on the registration rolls. It will be determined later if the voter was properly registered and the vote is to be counted.
- Voters who are listed on registration rolls but who are told they are ineligible by a poll worker need only ask for an “Affirmation of Eligibility” form.
- Voters with a disability or who have trouble reading or writing are entitled to help inside the voting booth from a friend, relative or poll worker.
- Voters who moved after last year’s election but failed to register in their new precincts, have the right to return their old precincts to vote.
- Voters need not feel hurried in the voting booth. There is no limit on the time they can spend there.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 King Salim Khalfani, Executive Director, Virginia State Conference NAACP, 804- 321-5678