As the November 3 Election Day fast approaches, the push to mobilize the Muslim vote is very strong, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations leading the way at the national and local levels, including in Houston, Texas.
Several area mosques, including Bear Creek Islamic Center Masjid Al-Mustafa and Clear Lake Islamic Center, as well as the Muslim-led Multicultural Center (MCC) now serve as early voting locations. Additionally, the MCC partnered with CAIR-Houston to host a webcast to inform voters about their rights as they prepare to exercise their right to vote.
Dr. Rubina Zaman, an MCC board member, was part of a Facebook live event with CAIR-Houston welcoming Emily Eby, a voting rights attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Zaman said the discussion, coming just ahead of Election Day, was important considering the current climate of misinformation and confusion amongst people about their rights in the voting booth and worries about how to handle potential harassment at the polls.
“I feel there is so much disinformation out there,” Zaman says. “It’s strange times, so this is important and timely information.”
Eby detailed several ways to ward off voter suppression and intimidation at the polls. This includes an Election Protection Hotline for Houston-area voters to call if they suspect anything untoward while they vote.
The number is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683); 1-844-YALLA-US (925-5287) for Arabic language, and 1-888-API-VOTE (274-8683) for a variety of Asian languages
“Intimidation takes any number of forms. Folks in Harris County are more familiar with intimidation than we wish they were,” Eby said.
Tactics include poll workers asking excessive or insulting questions; people trying to influence someone’s vote within the 100-foot boundary line from the polling station; excessive police presence at voting stations, or even people yelling at people as they try to vote or prevent them from entering the polling location, which is illegal and must be reported.
In these cases, Eby advised people to first “stay calm and stay safe,” urging anyone who feels they are being harassed or intimidated or even if they are viewing someone else in that situation to alert the situation to poll workers, to remove themselves from the situation and, if safely possible, take pictures or video of the offending behavior.
“Watch out for anything that your gut (tells you is wrong),” Eby advised. “If someone is standing outside the polls trying to intimidate any type of person from going in, that’s illegal. Call the hotline and we will fix it as soon as possible.”
Zaman questioned Eby about how having proper identification affects voting, either expired or not. Also when people should call the hotline if they suspect an issue.
Eby said Texas has fairly loose requirements when it comes to identification. She said as long as someone’s name on their government-issued ID is “substantially similar” to the name on the voter registration rolls then there should not be a problem for them to vote. This includes obvious nicknames, such as “Mike” for “Michael” or slight name misspellings.
Also, she made it clear the address listed on your voter registration does not have to match the ID address.
“The ID is just to prove who you are, not where you live,” Eby said. “Sometimes a poll worker will test people on their own addresses. That’s intimidation.”
Know Your Rights
What’s more, if your age is 18-69 and your driver’s license expired up to four years , you can still vote. If you’re over the age of 70 with an expired driver’s license you are still eligible to vote.
When it comes to knowing their rights and seeking help if they feel like their right to vote is being taken from them, Eby advised vigilance in understanding what is acceptable and unacceptable and how to get help if need be.
She said she expects some problems at the polls, but said Texans’ enthusiasm for voting is much stronger than any intimidation.
Whether she’s right or not, CAIR is doing what it can to encourage Muslim Americans to vote. Its “Muslim Vote” campaign includes several elements such as urging people to hand deliver their early, mail-in ballots in person if at all possible; providing a 24/7 rapid response hotline, cold calls to 150,000 registered Muslim voter households; a national get-out-the-vote town hall on Sunday, Nov. 1 from 12:45 – 7 p.m.; a national public service announcement about voting, and Election Day exit polling via Muslims.Vote.
The Muslim.Vote website also a state-by-state information database for issues of early voting, mail-in voting, and voter resources. This includes how to register to vote or locate your Election Day polling station. The site also has a “Voter Know Your Rights Guide,” and the “2020 American Muslims Voter Survey.
To register for the town hall, go to https://www.mymuslimvote.org/ntlgotv.