Election Day: NAACP among groups watching polls for voter suppression 

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Tuesday, November 8, 2022
NAACP among groups watching polls for voter suppression 
For the first time, the NAACP Philadelphia Branch set up an Election Day command center with students from Howard University Law School manning the phone lines.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The office of the NAACP Philadelphia Branch is more full than perhaps it's ever been. Among the dozens of people inside are volunteers answering literal calls for help. Their hotline is taking place in one of the hottest battleground states in this election.

"This is definitely a battleground," said Catherine Hicks, president of the NAACP Philadelphia Branch of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

For the first time, the NAACP Philadelphia Branch set up an Election Day command center, with students from Howard University Law School manning the phone lines.

Philadelphia native and Howard Law student Bridget Warlea was among those answering incoming calls from voters experiencing issues.

Election Day: Get your live 2022 midterm election results here

"Our student bar association created this initiative this year," she said of the program which sends Howard University students to other states as well to answer voters' calls on Election Day.

It's also a nationwide mission for the NAACP, which sent people to watch over the polls and answer voters' calls for help. Several national NAACP leaders were on site at the Philadelphia branch office, including Yolanda Melville who is a National Legal Committee Member and Vice President of the Atlantic City Branch.

"We are really taking a targeted approach on various states where we believe there will be election protection issues," she said. "This is not something new to the national office. This is something we've done every year. And Pennsylvania has always been a priority state."

Their work, though, was almost inhibited by an overnight crime at the Philadelphia Branch office.

"The wires were cut. Our cable wires and our phone wires," said Hicks of the early-morning discovery at their building.

"We're not sure if this was some type of voter intimidation ... (but) we were able to get a technician in to repair it. And we are up and running," added Hicks.

The NAACP volunteers were undeterred, just like volunteers with Make the Road Pennsylvania.

"We are making sure that everybody who is registered to vote is able to actually cast their ballot today," said Maegan Llerena, executive director of Make the Road PA.

As volunteers positioned themselves outside polling locations in Northeast Philadelphia, they helped Hispanic and Latinx residents who reported voting difficulties or suppression.

"We have faced a lot of racism at polls," said Llerena. "Poll workers telling people that the reason that there were long lines is because their names were too long. These folks that have Latino names."

Some voters were surprised to find that their polling locations moved. Others experienced entirely different issues.

"Even though (registered voters) have been voting at the same polling location for over a decade, they can't find their name (on the voting rolls)," said Llerena.

That's why these groups are so focused on their work today -- knowing that behind every vote is a voice.

"We want to make sure that everyone who wants to vote has the opportunity to do that," said Hicks.

Voters who experience issues can reach the NAACP Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. Spanish speaking voters can receive help in Spanish by calling 1-866-VEY-VOTA (Los votantes de habla hispana pueden recibir ayuda en español llamando al 1-866-VE-Y-VOTA).