Buzzing at Election Protection

and a shooting at precinct 186

In the chilly interior of a brightly painted old house on Harvard SE, dozens of volunteers with Election Protection are buzzing. A coalition of more than 100 local and national groups like People for the American Way, Revisioning New Mexico, the ACLU and the NAACP, Election Protection's mission today is to make sure anyone who is eligible to vote is able to do so. Hordes of volunteer lawyers, law students and others are mobilized to polling places and command centers like this one.

At the check-in desk, fresh faces are greeted and dispatched to polling places where they'll pass out copies of the Voters Bill of Rights and call in to the command center hourly to report any problems. It's been relatively quiet so far this morning; at a few polling places, EP volunteers have been moved farther away from the polls than they thought they had to be.

Then comes news that there's been a shooting near precinct 186, Cochiti Elementary School. Confusion! Chaos! Then an update comes. According to the poll worker assigned to Cochiti, the shooting was near the school but there's no indication it was election-related. The poll was briefly locked down while the shooter was contained; it has since reopened.

At a recommissioned dining room table, laptops take the place of plates as a group of women relay to the media(including me) this information and everything else that comes in. They're armed with laptops (the EP HQ has WiFi!) and cell phones, the indispensable tools of this election.

What's got them atwitter now is word of a Republican challenger at precinct 87, Sierra Vista Elementary. It goes up in green marker on the piece of butcher paper tacked up next to a map of the city, "Sierra Vista pct 87 Republican challenger." It'll be monitored and the media alerted. So far, there hasn't been word of any Democratic challengers.

The phones ring constantly and at times the noise level is overwhelming. They've had to add several other numbers to the election hotline (866) OUR-VOTE (866)687-8683). The hotline handles not only calls about problems at the polls, but calls about where or how to vote. So many people were calling with questions that Election Protection was worried calls reporting problems wouldn't get through. Hence the new phone lines.

There's a lull here now. The latest batch of volunteers have been shuttled off to their polling places and the phones are briefly quiet. There's no way it can last.

We'll have updates from Election Protection all day. If you experience problems at the polls, call (866) OUR-VOTE or (866)204-1941. For questions about where or how to vote, call (800) 787-5440.