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Groups Announce Efforts to Ensure Voter Protections in 2016

Several organizations announced efforts on Wednesday to ensure that Latinos and others who are eligible to vote are able to do so this year.

Arturo Vargas, executive director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), said his group operates a toll-free national bilingual hotline that voters can call to request information about voting, such as how to register to vote and how to locate their polling place.

Vargas said voters can also call the hotline (1-888-VE-Y-VOTA) on Election Day to report any problems they're having that's preventing them from casting their vote.

"We're working very hard to ensure that the Latino population is able to make its voice heard at the ballot box without confronting discriminatory barriers or obstacles," Vargas said, adding that his group predicts 13.1 million Latinos will vote this year, up from 11.2 million in 2012 and 9.7 million in 2008.

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NALEO is part of a nonpartisan voter protection coalition that launched several efforts to educate and protect voters from now on to the presidential election in November. With more than 100 partners, Election Protection is the nation's largest coalition working to protect the rights of voters.

Its members said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that national and state partners plan to connect with voters this year through a robust social media presence and a series of briefs and infographics. They'll also collaborate on voter assistance programs to engage voters in various states, and answer voters' questions and concerns through a national hotline.

Their efforts come less than a week before Super Tuesday, a day in which 14 states will hold primary elections.

Jose Garza, a voting rights attorney based in San Antonio, said voters of color in Texas continue to face significant barriers to voting. He pointed to how some election workers, particularly in small rural counties, try to find ways to disqualify minority voters from casting their ballots.

Garza pointed to a situation where a woman named Guadalupe Torres from Atascosa County had her mail-in ballot denied because she signed it as Lupe Torres. He alluded that the same wouldn't happen if a person named Joseph Smith signed his ballot as Joe Smith.

"They have this attitude of a gatekeeper that looks for reasons to disqualify minority voters," Garza said.

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