Monday, November 01, 2004


Know Your Voting Rights


Before you go to the polls:
• Find your correct polling place. Click here: They are getting crushed with requests, so if you don't get through right away, try again later or just call your local Board of Elections.
• To avoid confusion and save time, study the ballot. Check your local newspaper for a copy.
• Find a form of identification to bring to the polls. Unless you are a first-time voter who registered by mail without sending identification, you have the right to vote without providing ID. However, to avoid hassles just bring ID anyway. A government-issued ID is best (such as a driver's license), but you can also bring a utility bill, paycheck stub, phone bill, or similar papers with your name on them. If your ID does not have a signature, bring two forms of identification.
• Allow plenty of time to vote, preferably in the morning. There may be lines. Bring something to read. If the line is really long, consider getting a box of donuts or cookies to share to lighten the mood. Someone might be challenging voters just to slow things up in the hope that long lines will scare away voters. If this is happening, let folks in line know so it stiffens their resolve to stay and cast vote.
• Learn your voting rights:
• Even if you are not on the voter list, federal law gives you the right to a "provisional ballot." Insist on one and vote. A regular ballot is preferable, so you should do whatever you can to get a regular ballot first, like going home and getting a second form of identification or going to the polling place where you are definitely on the voter list. But rather than be turned away, demand a provisional ballot.
• You have the right to vote if you are in line when the polls close. Stay in line until you vote.
• Find out if your employer will give you time off to vote, if necessary.

At the polls:
• If you are confused about ANYTHING or feel you are being harassed, ask the official poll workers to help. Do not rely on fellow citizens for advice about the ballot, how the voting machines work, or why you are not on the rolls. If someone is challenging your right to vote, ask the poll workers to intervene.
• If someone harasses you, don't cause a ruckus. Just ignore the harasser, report it to a poll worker, and let the voting process continue. What kinds of things might somebody try? Well, in the past people have insisted on more ID than is required or argued that someone is at the wrong polling place.
• If something goes wrong, document it. Write down what happened, when, and descriptions of the people involved, including their names, if you can get them. If you have a camera or camera-phone, take pictures.
• Report voting problems to an organization ready to respond to problems at the polls:
• Common Cause: Call 1-866-MYVOTE1. This is a hotline you can call to report any voting problems.
• 1-866-OUR-VOTE. This hotline has been set up by a coalition of nonpartisan groups to deal with the most serious problems on Election Day. They have hundreds of lawyers standing by to immediately respond to the most egregious problems. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the "911" of voter suppression hotlines. Please don't call unless your problem is serious enough that you have to talk to a lawyer immediately.
• Contact the media. If something is going terribly wrong at a polling site and you have reported it to the folks above, you might want to then call local radio, television, and newspaper reporters. Often problems clear up quickly after a reporter arrives.

It's odd that it's come to this. But given how hard Americans have fought for the freedom to pick our government, it ought to take a lot more than these inconveniences and ham-handed attempts by desperate political operatives to dissuade us from casting a ballot. See you at the polls.

(source: TrueMajority)

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