A Guide to Exercising Your Right to Vote on Election Day

Nov 1, 2016
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This November 8, millions of voters across the country will exercise their fundamental right to vote. Campaigns and elections can be messy affairs, but our democracy has stood the test of time. We hope you'll exercise your right to vote, and this guide should help make sure you are prepared for a safe and hassle-free civic experience.

This election season has stoked fears for many voters planning to head to the ballot box. With recent court victories striking down voter ID and other discriminatory voting laws, there is a great deal of misinformation about what is required to vote. Irresponsible rhetoric about rigged elections and vigilante ballot security has heightened fears of voter intimidation.

In reality, our election system is mostly well-run and most voters should have no problems at all. Thousands of local officials work hard for months to set up systems across the country to process our votes securely and efficiently. But you might still have questions, and no system is perfect. We're here to help you plan ahead and navigate any problems if you encounter them!

Keep reading, or click the links below to skip to the answer to your specific question.

 

What are my rights on Election Day?

 

You have the right to cast a regular ballot.

If you are registered to vote, you have right to cast a regular ballot. Keep in mind that some states now require voters to have certain forms of identification in order to vote. Voter photo identification requirements have been struck down in some states but remain on the books in others. If you don't have the necessary photo identification, you may be asked to show another form of ID and/or sign a declaration in order to vote. Before you head to the polls, read up on the requirements in your state and make sure you know what you'll need at the polls on Election Day!

You have the right to cast a provisional ballot if there is a problem with your registration.

Again, if you are registered to vote, you have a right to cast a regular ballot and should insist on doing so if possible. If you think you are entitled to cast a regular ballot and are not permitted to do so, call the voter protection hotline.

However, as a last resort, if your eligibility to vote is questioned and you cannot cast a regular ballot (your name is not on the registration list or the supplemental list, and the election judge is unable to verify your registration with the local Board), you have the right to cast a provisional ballot. Once you cast a provisional ballot, election officials will determine whether you were eligible to vote and whether your vote should be counted.

 

What help can I receive if I have a disability?

 

Voters with disabilities have the right to access their polling place and cast a ballot. In addition, if you need assistance with voting or interpreting the ballot, you have the right to get help from a person of your choice or a poll worker.

 

What if the lines are long and the polls close before I vote?

 

If you are in line when the polls close, do not leave without voting! You still have the right to vote if you are waiting in line when the polls close.

 

What is voter intimidation?

 

Voter intimidation is a crime subject to federal civil and criminal penalties. It is a crime to intimidate, threaten, or coerce a voter or to attempt any of those actions.

Voter intimidation includes but is not limited to: blocking the entrance to polling places, hovering around or following voters, filming or photographing voters and direct confrontation or questioning of voters. Any objectively threatening or intimidating behavior towards potential voters is voter intimidation and should be reported.

 

What should I do if I encounter voter intimidation or other problems voting on Election Day?

 

If you encounter voter intimidation or other problems, there are many resources available to you. The first step is to report it to a poll worker. If the poll worker is unable or unwilling to resolve the problem, you can report the issue to election monitors that may be present at your polling place. There will be federal election monitors in five states this year. In addition, there will be partisan and non-partisan election monitors available at many polling locations across the country.  If the onsite resources are unavailable or unable to help:

  • Call a voter protection hotline at: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (English), 888-VE-Y-VOTA (bilingual English/Spanish assistance), 1-888-API-VOTE (Asian multilingual assistance), or 844-418-1682 (bilingual English/Arabic assistance).
  • Or contact the U.S. Department of Justice to report voting problems at: 800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767.

Please be aware that there have been news reports of potential "ballot security" efforts where untrained and unofficial individuals may represent themselves as monitors and either challenge voters or provide inaccurate information. If an individual outside the polling place tells you that you cannot vote or challenges your eligibility, do not rely on them. Insist on speaking to a poll worker and/or election judge. If you believe you are eligible, always call voter protection before leaving the polls if you are prevented from casting a regular ballot.

Even if your onsite resources are able to resolve your problem, you should call and report the problem to the voter protection hotline or report it to the Voting Rights Institute so that officials can record and document all problems at polling locations.

Most importantly, you should not be deterred from going to the polls and you should not leave your polling place without voting!

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