PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia nonprofit’s leaders worry that COVID-19 could put additional barriers in front of the ballot box for their clients facing food insecurity and other issues that are critical in the upcoming election.
As a solution to voter disenfranchisement, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger will host a virtual town hall in partnership with the ACLU this coming Tuesday via Facebook Live to inform voters on their rights.
Michele Lofton, director of development for the Coalition Against Hunger, said with so many issues on the line they felt the need to take action to help their clients have their voices heard in the upcoming election.
"In the June election many of them showed up to their polling places and found that they were closed, they didn't know what to do, they didn't know where to go. When they did find their polling places they stayed in line for several hours. Many of the machines weren't working," she said.
Lofton explained many of their clients make below the federal poverty rate. The pandemic has also increased the population they serve with more people needing their services due to loss of income.
"The different initiatives that are gonna be voted on in the next year are all things that are going to affect our clients, healthcare, the stimulus package," she said.
Part of what they plan to do, she said, is dispel voting myths which have become widespread.
"Some people are afraid that there are going to be people there with guns or somebody who's going to be violent towards them. They’re afraid to do the mail in ballots because it's not going to be counted or fraud," said Lofton.
The delay for some people receiving their mail-in ballots has also been problematic, she noted.
"Some people are starting to get their mail-in ballots and other people still haven’t received them and it's making them really buy into conspiracy theories," she said.
The town hall will provide information related to deadlines, mail-in ballot information, drop box locations, and voting in person.
"We are going to provide information where they can find reliable and accurate information about the election, and to use those as your sources and not rely so much on social media sites and ads," Lofton said.
Voters also have access to a hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, where people can get their questions answered in real-time by experts, and get assistance if they run into problems voting in person on Election Day.
"If there is a location where there is illegal activity taking place preventing them from voting, they will send someone out," Lofton affirmed.
The voting rights town hall is free and open to everyone. There will also be a link for people to watch at a later time if they miss it.
"Our goal is to make sure that they just vote," said Lofton. "Don't believe the things that are going to make you think, 'What's the use?' or 'I'm not going to try, I'm not going to vote.'"