Vote-monitoring effort gets thousands of Election Day calls

November 5, 2008

NEW YORK – The phone lines were busy on Tuesday at Election Protection command centers, where volunteers with the voter protection coalition were helping voters navigate obstacles and incidents at polling places across the country.

By late afternoon, some 56,000 calls had come in to the more than 30 Election Protection call centers linking trained legal volunteers with voters, said  Marjorie Press Lindblom, director of a command center at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, a New York law firm where she is a partner.

Most of the calls to 1-866-OUR-VOTE were run-of-the-mill complaints about long lines, broken voting machines or confusion over paper ballots, said volunteers at the Kirkland & Ellis command center.

One call reported a poll worker in New York illegally asking voters for their party affiliation, one found a polling place that opened three hours late and one was a call froma woman who was asked to pay $40 to register to vote, they said.

Other callers needed help navigating the bureaucracy, such as a caller from Wisconsin who was living in a hotel and had no way to prove his legal residence to vote, said Mike Edsall, also a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

 “It’s empowering,” he said of the volunteer work. “It’s fun to be able to sit and puzzle though the problems with people and get them to where they can vote.

“You just give people the best advice you can,” he said.

Working alongside the legal experts were volunteers for Video the Vote, a national network of volunteers armed with video cameras ready to record incidents of trouble at voting booths.

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t part of a campaign, that was non-partisan, that said everyone has a right to vote, to participate in the process,” said Christopher VanDijk, a New York-based actor and playwright who was volunteering with Video the Vote.

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