In the midst of a pandemic and uncertainty about what Nov. 3 will bring, it’s safe to say that the 2020 presidential election will be unlike any we’ve seen before. Even voter suppression — which has been a problem for years — is taking new forms. Some Americans are being targeted online with misinformation about the election, and many are worried mail-in ballots won't be counted in time as the United States Postal Service faces funding shortfalls. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump's call for unofficial “poll watchers” has election officials and voting rights advocates fearing voter intimidation.
The National Election Protection Hotline has been receiving about 5,000 calls a day, according to Damon Hewitt, executive vice president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which runs the hotline.
“The number of calls are going up and up,” Hewitt says. “It’s a function of there being so many questions, so much confusion and so many variations from one state to the next, especially with COVID.”
Even if you’ve registered to vote — or have already voted — it doesn’t mean there's nothing you can do to help others cast their ballots. Here are some organizations you can donate to that are advocating for voters’ rights.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law runs the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, a network of more than 200 national, state and local coalition partners including over 100 law firms and thousands of trained legal volunteers. It provides assistance to over a hundred thousand voters each election year (and significantly more during an election year) via its 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, which fields calls from people trying to find voting sites, reporting voter suppression and more. Lawyers and law students work pro bono to provide advice, document the issues — which this year have included voter intimidation and racist robo-calls, Hewitt says — and advocate or litigate for voters. They’ve filed 30 voter rights lawsuits since the pandemic began, Hewitt says.
The League of Women Voters powers the nonpartisan election website VOTE411.org, which provides general and state-specific information on voting options (like absentee and early voting), voting locations, qualifications and ID requirements. It also provides factual data on candidates in various federal, state and local races and gives voters tips on things like how to watch debates with a critical eye. The website is on track to support 10 million users by Election Day, says Cecilia Calvo, chief development office of the League of Women Voters. She says donations help the league provide up-to-date information for voters in both Spanish and English.
Common Cause manages grassroots voter protection field programs for the Election Protection coalition mentioned above. It works with organizations in all 50 states to identify election reforms at all levels of government, including expanding vote-by-mail and ensuring safe in-person voting with strict public health and social distancing guidelines. The organization has recruited more than 35,000 volunteers during the 2020 election through its Protect the Vote program (four times more than they saw during the 2016 election), according to its national media strategist David Vance. Common Cause also has an online tool to help people quickly find their representatives, how to contact them, bills they’ve introduced, committees they’ve served on and political contributions they’ve received to ensure you have all the information needed to vote.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy organization focused on upholding the values of democracy — including voters’ rights — via research, legal and policy advocacy and communications. Among its election-focused litigation, the Center represented two environmental organizations that intervened in a lawsuit brought by President Trump’s campaign that attempted to limit Pennsylvania’s use of ballot drop boxes and challenge the state’s poll-watching laws. Recently, the Brennan Center issued expert guidance on poll watching and an analysis of ballot design problems in Georgia, and filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit to help ensure that mail and absentee ballots will not be rejected merely based on a signature comparison.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project has worked to protect minorities’ voting rights since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, litigating over 300 voting rights cases (25 for the upcoming November election, as of Oct. 15). In September, the nonpartisan organization launched Let People Vote, a campaign encouraging people to make a voting plan and vote by mail. The new tool includes state-specific information on how to check voter registration status, how to vote early in-person or by mail and which of your state representatives are up for re-election. The ACLU has also produced “At the Polls,” a mini-series podcast answering questions about voting.
Nearly every organization and expert Money spoke to said that it's also important to highlight the work of local organizations helping people get to polls across the country.
“Groups on the ground are mobilizing their community and doing the kind of local outreach that are just so important this year,” says Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president for development, and women and democracy fellow at the Brennan Center. They get less national media attention, but are a great way for people to channel their donations, she adds.
Some of these groups include The New Georgia Project, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Democracy North Carolina, Southwest Voter Registration Project, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice in Louisiana and Change Illinois.
Here are some other national organizations helping people register to vote and get their ballots counted.
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Asian Law Caucus
- Campaign Legal Center
- Fair Elections Center
- Rock The Vote
- Spread The Vote
- The Sentencing Project