Confused about voting changes in light of COVID-19? This hotline can help.
Lawyers' Committee

Election Protection partners including Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers' Committee

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Lawyers' Committee

As more restrictions are enacted to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, confusion around the upcoming elections continue to rise.

Election dates and polling locations are changing as Election officials respond to the global pandemic.

Since mid-March, in response to the coronavirus, some states have postponed and rescheduled primary elections. Others have encouraged voting by mail. We have also seen the consolidation of polling places, leading to more crowded vote centers and longer waits to vote. Lack of needed voter education has led to confusion around dates and deadlines for mail-in ballots.

It is important to stay safe and follow the government's advice on social distancing, but it's also crucial to exercise your right to vote so all American's voices are heard. Voters should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote.

"In light of the tremendous uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 crisis, we urge that states do everything within their powers to make sure that all eligible voters can vote, including liberalizing to the fullest extent possible the use of absentee ballots and easing deadlines," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee. "States must move quickly but thoughtfully to ensure that all voters have full access this election season."

In order to make sure your vote counts, it's important to know your rights. With constantly changing election plans, confusion surrounding recent court rulings, and the lack of accurate voting information, it can be hard to keep up with what is needed to cast a ballot that will count.

Luckily there are resources out there to keep you informed of your rights and provide you with the necessary information to ensure you're able to get out and vote.

Election Protection, a coalition convened by the Lawyers' Committee, is one such resource. The nation's longest running non-partisan voter protection effort works year-round to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to vote and have that vote count.

The 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) hotline administered by the Lawyers' Committee, provides Americans with comprehensive information and assistance for all stages of the voting process. Including election dates, voter registration, absentee voting requirements and deadlines, and help to address any obstacles that might arise while trying to take part in the electoral process.

Thanks to a network of thousands of legal volunteers and over 200 partner organizations, the hotline provides vital resources to help ensure that every eligible American has the opportunity to exercise the fundamental right to vote in the 2020 election cycle.

"Throughout the election cycle, our volunteers provide voter information, document problems they encounter when voting and work with partners and volunteers on the ground to identify and remove barriers to voting," according to the organization.

Since 1963, the Lawyers' Committee has worked to advance and protect the right to vote and ensure that the right is afforded equally to all.

You, too, can help by staying informed and increasing voter awareness. Sign up for the Lawyers' Committee newsletter for the latest information on voting rights. To get updates on polling locations and election changes due to coronavirus, check out the Election Protection website and Twitter account for up-to-date information on current elections, and call the hotline if you have any questions. You can also donate to the Lawyers' Committee to help defend our democracy and fight for equal justice for all.

In the meantime, test your knowledge on voting rights with the quiz below.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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