AG James, PA Williams, Voting Rights Groups Launch Statewide Nonpartisan Election Protection Program

Ahead of early voting, 500+ New Yorkers have signed up for +1600 shifts to monitor polls

NEW YORK, NY (10/22/2020) (readMedia)-- Two days before early voting begins in New York, Attorney General Letitia James, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Common Cause/NY and other voting rights groups joined together to kick off the 2020 statewide nonpartisan election protection program. Over 400 volunteers have signed up to serve as either virtual poll monitors or roving poll monitors to assist voters with urgent questions, protect voting rights, and make sure poll sites are taking adequate safety protections.

Press interested in trailing a rover during early voting or election day, please contact Becky Stern at or 516 581 5707.

Watch the presser.

"COVID-19 has altered our way of life, but one thing has not changed: safe and secure elections. Just like the primary, we will have hundreds of people on the road and on line helping voters make sure they can cast their ballot correctly, report illegal activity, or just answer nonpartisan questions. Democracy doesn't pause for anything -- and we're ready to protect the vote," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

"The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy. When our civil rights are threatened, one of our most powerful assets is our ability to vote and we must all do our part to ensure safe and fair elections for all New Yorkers. We must not let the pandemic, voter suppressors, fear or anything else get in the way of making our voices heard through the ballot box. I look forward to standing beside Common Cause during a time and an election in which the stakes are so high," said Attorney General Letitia James.

"The stakes of this election are incredibly high, and yet New Yorkers are facing unprecedented challenges as they head to the polls – a pandemic that has changed the way we vote, and a President trying to undermine our elections and intimidate voters. Having volunteers available to assist voters with ballot questions or safety concerns is essential, and I thank Common Cause for undertaking this crucial effort," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The effort is a redux of Common Cause/NY's 2016 Election Protection program. This year, because of COVID-19, additional volunteers will be digital, on bikes, or in cars. Digital poll monitors will be searching social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to assist voters in real time. Roving poll monitors will be assigned several poll locations to check-on during their shifts.

Common Cause/NY has hosted 17 remote trainings for volunteers across the state. Poll monitors are responsible for ensuring voters are properly guided on voting protocol, reporting results, and troubleshooting any problems that may arise at the poll site. Volunteers will work statewide, and focus on areas in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Onondaga, Clinton, Jefferson, Erie, Dutchess, Columbia, Cortland, Oneida, and Broome. Voters are encouraged to report any misconduct to 886-OUR-VOTE, a national election protection hotline.

Common Cause/NY has paired up with New York Civil Liberties Union, The Muslim Community Network, Generation Vote, and others to recruit members from all over the state.

"The Muslim Community Network is proud to work with the Attorney General's Office as well as our civic partners like Common Cause NY to help protect our elections. The upcoming election may be one of the most polarized elections in the modern history of this nation, and we want to ensure that every eligible voter, no matter their color, race, gender, religious affiliation, and economic standing, has the resources, tools, and access to voting. For the Muslim American community, being able to vote is one of our most cherished rights that this nation affords us, and our community knows first-hand how politics has affected our community, from the Muslim Ban to surveillance, and others. By recruiting poll-monitors and training them on election protection, we will ensure that the Muslim vote counts!" said Aniqa Nawabi and Ali Kaba of the Muslim Community Network.

"From reports of long lines and voter intimidation at the polls, to misprinted ballots and ballot envelopes, to fake ballot boxes and ballots being set on fire - these events serve as a daily reminder of the vulnerability of elections. Protecting the rights of voters to vote - and have their vote counted - is of utmost importance every election, and certainly now," said Brooklyn Voters Alliance.

"Your vote is fundamental to our democracy and to the future you want," said Erika Lorshbough, deputy policy director for the New York Civil Liberties Union. "The NYCLU is proud to join our partners in the Election Protection Coalition, working with New Yorkers across our state to safeguard your vote during the most important election of our lifetimes. We may face an historic pandemic, and leadership in D.C. that enflames concerns about ballot access and voter intimidation, but We the People have shown our democracy is durable enough to weather past crises. This coalition will stand with New Yorkers this election season to ensure every vote is counted and to protect our most cherished American right."

"With misinformation, fears around COVID, confusion around polling locations and more, young people are needed now more than ever. We need to protect our elders, our neighbors and the future of our communities by stepping up to protect our vote in the most consequential election of our lives. In the last midterm election, I waited on a 2 hour line to vote and saw firsthand the importance of election protection in my Brooklyn neighborhood. This year, we need to make sure every New York voter has the opportunity to make their voices heard without unnecessary barriers to the ballot box," said Bri Cea, CEO/Founder, Generation Vote and LNYV Youth Working Group Co-Chair.

Early voting starts Saturday October 24, and runs until November 1st. Election Day is November 3rd. Any voter can request their absentee ballot until October 27 and postmark it by November 3rd.

In September, Common Cause/NY launched a GOTV campaign called "Skip the Crowds: Vote Early, Absentee or In Person." Thanks to a grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the branded campaign consists of targeted social media ads, instructional videos, and informational emails. Additionally, the PSA has been airing on rotating billboards throughout the city on donated space from F.Y. Eye.