Voting is Essential: People Must Be Able to Safely Exercise Their Rights During Emergencies

Date
Issues

Risk of police confrontation on Election Day during curfew is elevated for people of color

WASHINGTON – Today, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a mandatory 7:00pm curfew for June 2, 2020 – Election Day in the District of Columbia – as officials prepare for protests around the city. Polls do not close until 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Voters must be able to travel to and from their polling locations safely and without fear of law enforcement interference, but the curfew was announced by an emergency cellphone alert that did not mention any exception for voting.

“While we recognize the public safety concerns Mayor Bowser must balance, executives cannot place last-minute limitations on voter movement while the polls are open,” said Danielle Lang, Co-Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting of Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “The curfew order’s exemption of voting activity – which was not included in the text alert – is insufficient. Voters must be able to travel to and from the polls and cast their ballots free from fear of police questioning, harassment, or arrest. But under the Mayor’s current curfew, the likelihood of police confrontation with voters is high. And the burdens will undoubtedly fall disproportionately on voters of color, who may reasonably fear police interactions, especially when law enforcement has been directed to take people into custody if the curfew is violated. All voters need to be able to get to the polls safely and return home safely. Imposing a curfew during voting hours would set a terrible precedent for the remainder of the primary season and the General Election in November.”