New Voter Protection App for Your Phone

Barbara Arnwine

An alliance of civil rights groups has unveiled a smartphone application as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat what it called a nationwide effort to disenfranchise minority and youth voters. “The Election Protection smartphone app is a dynamic tool that will educate voters on their rights and empower them to take action so they can vote,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The free app is a “critical tool in our fight against voter suppression,” Arnwine said, referring to recent state voter identification laws that have aroused concerns among civil rights advocates. The tool gives voters the ability to digitally verify their registration status, find their polling place, encourage their friends and family to vote, fill out voter registration forms, and contact election protection officials, amongst other means to encourage voting. The app was released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials Education Fund, New Organizing Institute Education Fund, Rock the Vote and the Verified Voting Foundation. Around the country, state governments have pursued voter identification laws and other legislative initiatives that civil rights activists — and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — have labeled a type of “poll tax” that suppresses the vote, similar to historical efforts to disenfranchise minority voters during the Jim Crow era. “There are efforts across the country to suppress the vote and these efforts have disproportionately affected Latino voters, which is why the NALEO educational fund is proud to join in this effort,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials Education Fund. Vargas said that a Spanish version of the app is expected to be released in coming weeks. One of the target audiences for the software is, naturally, tech-savvy younger people, who have proven to be less likely to vote, as well less informed about voting requirements. “We’ve seen incredible confusion about [election] laws, in particular amongst young voters,” said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote. She cited a recent survey from Tufts University that showed 68 percent of young voters are either unsure or incorrect about photo ID requirements, while  80 percent are unsure or incorrect about their state’s voter registration rules. The app is also, Arnwine stressed, only a complementary tool to their other programs that protect the vote. In addition to the smartphone app, the Lawyers’ Committee and NALEO have hotline numbers that citizens can call for voting assistance: 1-866-OUR VOTE and 1-888-VEY VOTA.
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