OKLAHOMA CITY - The ACLU of Oklahoma is expanding its call for voters and poll workers alike to report any instances of suppression, intimidation, or noncompliance with polling procedure to the ACLU of Oklahoma’s Election Protection Hotline (405) 849-5220.
Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in widespread recruitment for more Election Day poll workers. In Oklahoma, many young Oklahomans responded to that call and served their first Election as poll workers during the June primary. However, when newly trained poll workers observed discrepancies between training and practice that resulted in voter intimidation and suppression, the Oklahoma County Election Board and State Election Board opted not to assign those poll workers for the August and November Election Days, instead opting for business as usual.
“As someone with a deep respect for the voting process, I was excited to do my civic duty and staff a precinct in Oklahoma County” said Bailey Perkins, Precinct 159 Poll Worker. “But my experience that day of was met with racist remarks, refusal to provide voters with provisional ballots, and inconsistencies in the application of the voter ID law. I respect the fact that many of these poll workers have been doing this work for decades, but it is critical that the County and State Election Boards be prepared to address problems at polling sites on Election Day and more in depth in the months between Elections. Moreover, given the continuing rise of COVID-19 and the unprecedented turnout in Early Voting, I am especially concerned about the fact that not only were my colleague and I met with inaction to our reports of misconduct at the polls, we have not been assigned to work an Election since. As someone comfortable with the process and systems, I can only imagine how other folks who tried to report problems at their polling places feel, and what that impact is for voters most vulnerable to the harms of the suppression I witnessed.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma joins poll workers in calling on the State Election Board to:
- Ensure there is a way for poll workers and voters alike to quickly report problems, anonymously if they choose, in a way that has documented intake and response;
- Create a transparent reporting process of complaints received and results/responses after each election;
- Provide occasional spot checks of functionality at polling sites on Election Day;
- Engage in more frequent training of poll workers, that includes a focus on implicit bias and how to avoid creating hostile conditions for voters of color, voters with disabilities, trans voters, and other voters who may be impacted from implicit and explicit voter suppression;
- Ensure poll workers are not punished, but rather encouraged, to report inconsistencies, problems, or concerns related to their polling site.
“As we head into November 3, with expectations for continued unprecedented turnout, we hope that poll workers and voters alike will feel free to call our Election Protection hotline (405) 849-5220 to report any issues, instances of voter intimidation, questions, or concerns,” said Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “We know there is systemic suppression, as is evident from the lengthy lines we have seen around the state throughout early voting. All poll workers and voters deserve to have a safe Election that promotes access and protects above all the right to vote. If the Election Board at county or state levels can not hear criticism directly from poll workers without retribution, we want poll workers and voters to know that we’re ready to take their calls and get them the urgent solutions required.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma has worked over the years to address voter suppression and intimidation and its impact, and the affiliate has prepared for increased volume of reports to its hotline this Election, coordinating with the National Lawyers Guild Oklahoma to send legal observers to polling sites as necessary. Anyone can leave a message documenting issues they experienced as a voter or poll worker at (405) 849-5220, and they will be immediately triaged.