Frequently Asked Questions about the Election Protection Program

Q: Can you tell me more about the EP program?

A: Election Protection is a national network of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations that operate hotlines in the weeks prior to and all day on Election Day, and place volunteers at polling places in over 30 states. Voters anywhere in the country can call these numbers to find out information about where to vote and whether they need ID, and also to report long lines, problems with voting machines, and any other voting-related incidents.  The hotlines are staffed by attorneys and connected to local groups all across the country who can address situations in real time. These phone numbers should be shared far and wide:

866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) – English language hotline
888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) – Spanish language hotline
888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) – Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog
844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287) – Arabic language hotline

Q: What is the difference between “poll watchers” and the nonpartisan Election Protection program’s poll monitors?

A: “Poll watchers” are people who assigned to observe the polls on behalf of a campaign or political party and certified by the election officials – often inside the polling place. In some states, partisan poll watchers have the ability to challenge voters eligibility in the polling place.

Some individuals, parties and campaigns may also be outside the polling place, calling themselves “poll waters” or “election observers” or similar. They may be explicitly partisan and for a particular candidate or party. These individuals do not have the right to enter the polling place.

Our Election Protection program is nonpartisan and not affiliated with any campaign or party. We recruit and train poll monitors who do not enter the polling place, except in limited circumstances. As a nonpartisan poll monitor, you will stand outside of the polling places, and help ensure voters know their rights, report and solve issues that arise at the polling places.  Poll monitors need to attend trainings but do not need to be certified by election officials. Our training program is tailored to each individual state.

Q: How do we report problems and issues?

A: Poll monitors and voters call the voter hotlines to report issues or get details on how to resolve a particular problem. This also documents the problem. Our trained legal team staffing the hotline address problems in real time and when necessary, reach out to the appropriate authorities know about the problem. For example, if a polling place runs out of ballots, we will make sure the local Board of Elections or County officials know about the problem and can provide more ballots.

Q: What if there is no field program in my state?

A: The Election Protection program is active in all 50 states with the legal hotline, and runs field programs in 30 days. For those state where we are unable to run a field program, please click here to see what steps you can take in your community to ensure every eligible voter is able to vote.

Q: What is the schedule? What location will I be at?

A: Schedules and locations vary by state.  Every volunteer will attend training and volunteer for at least a 4-hour shift, sometime more.  In most states, you will sign up for a location and shift during your training.

Q: How will I be identified as a nonpartisan Election Protection volunteer?

A: Most states will provide volunteers a t-shirt, and some states use large buttons.  All volunteers will wear something that identifies them as a non partisan volunteer for Election Protection and promoting the 866-OUR-VOTE number and includes “You have the right to vote” on it.

Q: Will I get training on how to handle different situations/scenarios?

A: Yes – you will be trained in your state’s election law, what is and what isn’t permitted, and how to report and address each situation. Each state is different, which is why it is important to get training on your state’s laws and rules.

Q: Is volunteering safe? What if there is disruption at the polls?

A: First and foremost, your in state training will address these types of issues.  Generally speaking, if you observe or experience any kind of disruption in or near a polling place, act quickly but calmly to report the situation. Do not confront anyone who is engaging in actions that may be intimidating to voters.  Instead, call one of the voter protection hotlines listed above and also report the situation to the election officials stationed inside that polling place. Only call law enforcement if you believe it is necessary to ensure your safety or the safety of someone else. If you are able to stay at the polling place until the situation is resolved, take notes on what is going on. Use your best judgment about whether filming the incident is appropriate, but be aware that some states have laws that prohibit taking photos or video inside a polling place.

Q: Who is sponsoring this Election Protection program?

A: Election Protection is a long-running nonpartisan campaign to ensure every eligible voter is able to vote coordinated by over 100 state, local and national partners, led by the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Common Cause. View all of the partners here: http://protectthevote.wpengine.com/non-profit-partners/

Q: If I am a legal professional, how can I use my legal expertise?

A: If you have a professional legal background (as an attorney, law student or paralegal) please contact the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to use your legal expertise to help voters in this election. Please visit http://www.866ourvote.org/ to find opportunities – and thank you!

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