Examiner: Fighting voter suppression? There’s an app for that

Stringent new voting laws and redrawn precincts are just some of the obstacles voters will encounter in this election, but a new smart phone application helps people navigate the election process with ease.

Election Protection lets users find out on their smart phone if they are registered to vote, when the deadline for registration is and where their polling place is. Voters in states with online registration can use the app to register to vote.

The free app was launched by a consortium of civil rights groups, among them Election Protection, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the New Organizing Institute Education to mobilize and educate voters about the voting process and as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat what it called a nationwide effort to disenfranchise minority and youth voters.

While the app can provide resources for all voters, it has been launched as part of efforts to educate and empower voters from communities of color that are typically underrepresented, given the high rate of smartphone use in these communities. "In many ways, they've bypassed the computer and gone right to their mobile phones," said Heather Smith from Rock the Vote. "And we need to take everything we've done online and move to the smartphone."

African Americans and Latinos have been proven to have a higher rate of smart phone usage than other Americans, despite having lower incomes.

A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday refused to stop a tough new voter identification law from going into effect, which Democrats say will suppress votes among President Barack Obama's supporters. The law requires voters to show a valid state issued photo ID such as driver’s license.

The old law required identification only for people voting in a polling place for the first time and it allowed non-photo documents such as a utility bill or bank statement.

Democrats say the law will make it harder for the elderly, minorities, the poor and college students to vote, as part of a partisan scheme to help the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, beat President Obama in the November election.

The Republican-controlled Legislature argued the law is needed to prevent election fraud, but the lawyers representing the state acknowledged that they are "not aware of any incidents of in person voter fraud."

Some people complained they will be unable to vote because they lack the necessary documents, including a birth certificate, to get a state photo ID, the most widely available of the IDs that are valid under the law.

To download the free app, visit app.866ourvote.org on your smartphone; and don’t forget to take it with you to vote to call to report issues experienced at the polls.

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