To the editor,
As we get closer to Election Day, we are also seeing less civility in our society. We have all seen instances where we cannot have a respectful conversation with people who disagree with us. We have heard of damage to or theft of campaign yard signs. There was also a report of violence in Oswego County at a campaign rally against an individual who held a campaign sign for the opponent. News from the primary election suggests we may see voter harassment or intimidation that could interfere with the right of every voter to cast their ballot.
I recently telephoned the Oswego County Board of Elections, the Oswego Police Department and the Oswego County Sheriff. This is the advice I was given for every voter who sees evidence of voter harassment or intimidation:
Protect yourself from harm. Avoid engaging with those who are harassing or attempting to intimidate voters. If one can do so safely, notify the poll workers because they have been trained to deal with these issues. In all cases, if the voter feels threatened with either harm or are prevented from voting they should dial 911 and request help.
In addition to these, there are several other resources where voters can turn.
First, election protection at 866ourvote.org is a nonpartisan coalition that works year-round to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to vote and have their vote count. During the early voting period from Oct. 24 – Nov. 1, and on Election Day, Nov. 3, voters can call Election Protection at 866-687-8683 (866-OUR-VOTE) to report a problem and ask for help.
There are also several partisan resources to assist voters. Since these resources are affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party, voters from their party may be more comfortable turning to these partisan resources. However, all of the resources listed here should help every voter.
The Republican National Lawyers Association, rnla.org, has a very broad mission statement, one element is advancing open, fair and honest elections. They can also be reached at 202-802-0437.
The Democratic National Committee has a civic engagement and voter protection department, democrats.org/civic-engagement-and-voter-protection. They staff a Voter Assistance Hotline, 833-336-8683. Their employees are trained to answer questions regarding voting problems.
Voters can also contact the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, nydlc.org, a coalition of NY attorneys, law students, and voting rights advocates who share the common goal of protecting each citizen’s right to vote. They have a helpline as of Sept. 12, 2020, at 855-895-2667.
While we are facing a contentious election at a time of great stress and a general reduction in civility, these factors should not challenge the right of every voter to have their voice be heard. Therefore, I am writing this letter to the editor to encourage every citizen to vote, and to give every voter the tools needed to deal with problems that they may encounter, but most of us hope don’t actually occur. Voting is foundational to our form of government, and it should be our common value to protect that right for every voter.