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Election Protection on the Ground: How to Defend the Native Vote in Your Community GREG LEMBRICH LEGAL DIRECTOR, FOUR DIRECTIONS.

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Presentation on theme: "Election Protection on the Ground: How to Defend the Native Vote in Your Community GREG LEMBRICH LEGAL DIRECTOR, FOUR DIRECTIONS."— Presentation transcript:

1 Election Protection on the Ground: How to Defend the Native Vote in Your Community GREG LEMBRICH LEGAL DIRECTOR, FOUR DIRECTIONS

2 Election Protection is Crucial in Native Communities  Non-partisan, community-based election protection encourages voting, makes voting a more pleasant and productive experience, and maximizes participation (and thus the political power) of the tribes  Native voters have frequently been subject to harassment and intimidation in and around polling places, as well as illegal attempts to disenfranchise them, which can not only deprive the effected voters of their vote and their voice, but discourage entire communities from participating  Effective election protection can and should address both the bad- intentioned mistreatment and disenfranchisement or voters as well as the confusion and mistakes in the polling place that deprive voters of their rights

3 Four Directions’ Election Protection Experience  Started in South Dakota in 2004  Partner with NCAI Native Vote since 2008  Have assisted tribes in states throughout Indian Country with voter registration, early voting, lobbying, media campaigns, GOTV, election protection, and litigation  Extensive network of attorneys, tribal officials, and community leaders  Provide training for lawyers, law students, and non-legal volunteers in poll watching and election law  Coordinate large legal team on Election Day (40-50 lawyers and law students in South Dakota alone)

4 6 Keys to an Effective Election Protection Program 1) Recruit and train volunteers 2) Engage and educate the community 3) Distribute resources where they are needed 4) Be prepared for problems on Election Day 5) Experienced lawyers to supervise, advise, and react 6) Data gathering

5 1) Recruit and Train Volunteers  Volunteers can be lawyers, law students, or interested non-lawyers  The basics of election law, poll watching, and voter rights are not legally complex and anyone can be trained to be an effective election observer  Regardless of experience, all volunteers (even lawyers) need effective training  Election law and procedures can vary considerably from state to state, so training needs to be tailored to the particular state  Various election law resources for each state are available online, including through ACLU, Lawyers Committee, Brennan Center, and also from each state’s Secretary of State (or other election official)

6 2) Engage and Educate the Community  Promote voter awareness and educate voters about their rights  Work with tribal officials, community leaders, and local groups to emphasize the importance of voting and increase participation  Establish contacts with local media to help publicize election efforts  Include voter rights/election protection components into any get out the vote or other pre-election activities  Dispel myths and address concerns that might otherwise discourage citizens from voting  Make voters aware that there will be trained volunteers in the polling places to assist them and protect their rights

7 3) Distribute Resources Effectively  Volunteer resources are always limited, so making the best use of them on Election Day is a challenge  Plan in advance so that volunteers can find their polling places before Election Day and familiarize themselves with the facility and community  Highest priorities are usually polling places with the greatest numbers of registered voters or where there have been problems in the past  Consider whether some larger polling places may need more than one volunteer, and also whether some volunteers may need to work in shifts or have breaks during the day

8 4) Be Prepared for Problems on Election Day  First rule is to try to work with the precinct election officials to resolve any issue on the spot. Any other process is time-consuming, and time is in short supply on Election Day!  Volunteers should arrive before polls open to make sure everything is set up for voting to begin on time and that all necessary personnel and equipment are in place  Volunteers should meet and engage with election officials before things get too busy  Volunteers should wear Native Vote button, t-shirt, etc. if possible to identify themselves as resources to voters  Volunteers should bring working cell phone or determine best possible phone access in advance  Volunteers should also bring any training manuals, forms, pens, food and beverages they will need, etc.

9 4) Be Prepared for Problems on Election Day  Volunteers need to be prepared to contact local election officials if necessary and/or to ask precinct workers to do so when appropriate  Volunteers should have contact information for county and state officials, as well as the supervisor/coordinator of the local election protection program  Volunteers should document their activities, particularly any major incidents, but should not focus too much on forms; most important thing is to keep concentration on protecting voter rights  Volunteers should trust their instincts (If something seems wrong, it probably is)  Volunteers must speak up when there is a problem

10 Common Problems on Election Day  ID issues  Name missing from voter rolls  Inactive registration/purge  Absentee ballot requested  Felon voting  Change in address/polling place  Improper challenges or other harassment  Run out of ballots, broken machines, etc.

11 5) Experienced Lawyers to Supervise, Advise, and React  Senior lawyers are needed to supervise and coordinate election protection volunteers  Supervisors can be a resource to address problems by phone (or go to poll locations if appropriate), and must be able to escalate issues when necessary  Worthwhile for leaders to establish relationships with county and state officials in advance to ease communication on Election Day  Maintain contact with tribal government and community leaders to address any problems that they can help resolve  Also valuable to have good media contacts to draw quick attention to any illegal/suppressive activities or other irregularities

12 6) Gather Data  Important to gather data and reports from each precinct so that problems can be documented  Evidence and witnesses are crucial in any subsequent challenges, litigation, etc.  Future election protection efforts can benefit from the experience of this election through data  NCAI has useful forms on its website (precinct questionnaires, incident tracking, reporting major incidents, etc.) that can be used or modified to fit your specific needs

13 Q & A  For further information, contact: Greg Lembrich (917)  Also see the Four Directions/Native Vote South Dakota Election Observer Training Manual and Voter Rights Guide on the Native Vote website


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