As Hoosiers return to the polls for the first time since November 2020, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights will be available to help any voter who encounters a problem casting a ballot.
The committee has been staffing a telephone hotline to answer questions and address problems that Indiana voters may face at the polls since at least the 2016 election. According to Ami Gandhi, senior counsel for the committee, the number of calls has increased each election cycle as Hoosiers have become aware the help is available.
Also, the questions have covered a broad spectrum. Gandhi said Indiana residents have called about polling places opening late or closing early, trouble with the state’s voter registration and ID requirements, allegations of voter intimidation, and difficulties for the disabled to access the ballot box.
For the May 3 primary, the committee has established the hotline — 866-OUR-VOTE — for Indiana residents to call with any questions or problems they have when voting. A team from the committee will be available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time specifically to help Hoosier voters.
Gandhi, who is a native Hoosier and lives in Monroe County, encouraged voters to call with any voting question they have.
“It can be confusing or even a little nerve-wracking for someone to call us and share a question they may have,” Gandhi said. “They may feel like they were supposed to know this information and feel silly for asking. We just want to reassure everyone … it’s natural to be confused by the different bureaucratic requirements, steps and jargon. It’s no fault of theirs if some of the lingo and steps are confusing. That is something that we’re available to help walk voters through.”
The committee has also created a website for Indiana voters that provides materials about the state’s voting laws and tools to locate where they can vote.
Voters who have a problem may be offered a provisional ballot. However, Gandhi said the voter should try to navigate the issue and cast a regular ballot. The concern for voting rights advocates is that voters may not know the additional steps they have to take to ensure their provisional ballots are included in the final tally, she said.
“Putting the burden on an eligible voter to have to follow up with more requirements and bureaucratic steps in order to have their vote counted is always going to be a concern from a civil rights point of view,” Gandhi said. “Voting for people who are eligible should be the most streamlined process as possible.”
Along with the hotline, Gandhi said the committee’s nonpartisan community partners, such as Common Cause Indiana and Count US Indiana, will have people on the ground at some sites around the state to help voters.
“We are civil rights advocates who are also keeping an eye out for voting rights violations. If they do occur, we try to have a problem-solving approach as much as possible, so that if the issue can be resolved and the barrier removed on the spot,” Gandhi said. “That is always going to be the goal, to help the voter gain access to voting before 6 p.m., before the polls close on May 3 on Election Day.
“But,” Gandhi continued, “as a last resort, if a legal challenge is necessary such as litigation, we also stand ready to assist voters when asserting their legal right.”
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee and the national Lawyers’ Committee are collaborating on the Election Day help with Common Cause Indiana, the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and Count US Indiana.