Voter questions hotline set up by ACLU of Virginia

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you run into any problems with your voter rights on Tuesday at the polls, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia will be manning the phones to help you.

Just like the turnout on Tuesday, the 4 staff members that'll be answering these phone don't know what to expect until the polls actually open.

"Some elections that seems to be low key, we end up with a lot of calls. And, some elections where you expect a lot of issues, we don't get many calls," says ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.

One big issue last year during the Presidential Primaries happened in Chesterfield. There simple was not enough ballots.

Elections director Larry Haake says it's no longer a problem.  "I can't see ballots being an issue. We have plenty of ballots."

But new laws could be lighting up the phone lines at the ACLU this year. "What we expect to happen this year is some confusion about the right to wear campaign buttons and the like to polling place. Mostly we're concerned poll works don't know the law," says Willis.

That law now says you can wear campaign attire, if you are voting.

Another issue may be ID cards. They are not required if you are registered to vote. But sometimes Willis finds, poll workers don't know that either.

"If that happens, ask for an affirmation identity form. Fill it out and you get to vote anyways," says Willis.

It's information like that Haake clarifies with his poll workers.

"I do all I can to avoid those issues through training and noticed and things like that," adds Haake.

Each poll worker goes through an initial training period, along with refresher courses.

This Saturday, the two lead poll workers at each of the county's poll location will go through last minute training.

This, as Willis and his team are ready for a whatever Tuesday brings.

The ACLU will also be at many polling locations handing out Voter Right packets, so you can have some of your questions answered.

If you do need the help of the ACLU, you can call (804) 644-8080 or you can e-mail them at


The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia will answer questions from voters who encounter problems at the polls on Election Day, and is prepared to advocate on behalf of those whose rights have been abridged.   The ACLU hotline number is (804) 644-8080.  Emails sent to will also be answered.  The ACLU of Virginia has operated a joint Election Day hotline with the Virginia NAACP for the last ten years.
"Voting shouldn't be confusing," said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, "but problems crop up every year.  Most stem from a combination of voters not knowing their rights and poll workers not being as forthcoming or knowledgeable as they should be." 
"So, when a voter forgets to bring an ID, and the poll official says go home and get one, a critical piece of information is missing-that you don't have to have an ID to vote, but you can sign an Affirmation of Identity form and vote anyway.  A voter who knows to ask for the form is more likely to get to vote than a voter who does not. "
Last year's elections occurred just after the State Board of Elections adopted a policy preventing voters from wearing political apparel in polling places.  The ACLU sued on behalf of voters who were affected, and the General Assembly changed the law.  Voters may now wear campaign buttons, stickers and other apparel expressing a political view.

Advice the ACLU will be giving to voters is likely to include what to do if:
-- they have lost or do not have identification with them
-- they are told they are not on the registration rolls after arriving at the polls
-- they make a mistake while completing their ballot
-- their vote is challenged by someone else
-- they cannot physically access the polling place
-- they are told they cannot vote because they are wearing political attire

Voter Empowerment Cards
The ACLU of Virginia has already distributed more than 35,000 pocket-sized cards describing voters' rights.  The Voters' Rights Cards, available in English and Spanish, may be viewed or downloaded at, or picked up at the ACLU office in Richmond, 530 East Main Street, Suite 310, Richmond.

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