Protecting Your Right to Vote

I’ve just gotten an email message from my pals at MoveOn.org about dealing with potential voting rights infringements next Tuesday, and while I expect that many of the like-minded readers of this site already get the same email messages that I get, this one seems important enough to reproduce here. I’ll put the full message below the fold, but I encourage anyone concerned about how to protect their voting rights to take a gander.

Dear MoveOn member,

They’re doing it again. In Nevada, a Republican contractor has allegedly ripped up thousands of Democratic registration forms.(1) In Florida, Jeb Bush has purged tens of thousands of legitimate voters — mostly black, mostly Democratic — from the rolls because their names are similar to a felon’s.(2) In Ohio, the Republican Secretary of State has been so uncooperative that a federal judge said that he “apparently seeks to accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.”(3)

But there’s one big difference between the election of 2000 and the election of 2004: this time, a number of powerful, well-staffed groups will be aggressively responding to each and every instance of voter intimidation, suppression, and fraud. Messing with our right to vote is a felony, and with your help we’ll make sure that anyone who does is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We’ve put together a wallet-sized card that has all the numbers and information you need if someone tries to stop you from exercising your right to vote. You can download it now at:

http://cdn.moveonpac.org/content/pdfs/ep_card.pdf

In a great majority of polling places, of course, voting will be very efficient — even fun. Poll workers will guide you through the process. They’re non-partisan, and they are there to help.

But it’s likely that some precincts will be targeted for vote suppression, and that’s what we have to be on the look-out for. Since one key suppression tactic is slowing down the voting process, we have to be careful not to fall into that trap. Don’t obstruct: just demand that whoever is giving you trouble step aside with you and let the voting continue.

But before we get into what you should do if things go wrong, here are a few pointers to help make sure your voting experience is a good one:

  • Find your polling place ahead of time. Having this information ahead of time will help make sure that you can zip to the polls and back during that half-hour lunch break. You can locate your local polling place using your zip code at http://www.mypollingplace.com. In most cases, the site will tell you what kind of voting machines to expect and how they work. (By the way, if mypollingplace.com conflicts with information you’ve received from your county or state election officials, use the official information.)
  • When in doubt, ASK. Poll workers are there to help you. They’ll show you how to work the machines, and if you’re at the wrong polling place, they should tell you how to get to the right one. Every polling place should also have a posted list of your voting rights, and instructions for filing a complaint if your rights have been violated.
  • Know your rights. If you’re an eligible voter, you have the following rights:

    • If your name is not on the official voter list but you believe you are eligible to vote in that precinct, even if an election official challenges your vote, you have the right to cast a “provisional ballot.”
    • If you’re in line when the polls close, you should stay in line because you’re entitled to vote.
    • In many states, your employer must allow you time to vote at some point during the day. You can’t be fired for being late due to long polling lines.
    • You have the right to vote without being intimidated by anyone.
    • For your rights in your own state, check out this website: http://www.ourvote.com/
  • Bring photo ID, preferably government-issued ID or a utility bill, phone bill, or paycheck with your name and current street address. If you’re a new registrant, it may be required.
  • Vote in the morning. In a great majority of polling places, everything will go smoothly, but by going early you can help prevent lines later in the day.
  • A regular ballot is better than a provisional ballot. If your eligibility to vote is questioned, ask if you can cast a regular ballot by providing additional ID or by going to another polling place. Only cast a provisional ballot if there’s no alternative available.

So, what if something does go wrong?

First, document it. If there are specific individuals involved who are challenging your right to vote, intimidating voters, or interfering with the process, try to get their names. Write down exactly what happened, including the time of day, descriptions of the people involved, and any other details you can remember.

Then, report it. There are lots of organizations that will be working to respond quickly to complaints of voter intimidation, suppression, and fraud. Here’s who to call:

  • MoveOn PAC: Go to http://www.moveonpac.org/. On election day, our website will host a form where you can post your problem and get help.
  • Common Cause: Call 1-866-MYVOTE1. Common Cause has set up a hotline that you can call to report any problems you have voting. They’ll document where problems are occuring, watch for wide-spread voter suppression, and provide real-time legal help to the hot spots.
  • 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.

Again, to download a wallet-sized card with all of this information that you can bring with you to the polls, go to:

http://cdn.moveonpac.org/content/pdfs/ep_card.pdf

As Bill Clinton said at a rally with John Kerry on Monday, “They’re trying to scare the voters away from the polls. It worked so well in Florida, they seem to be trying it elsewhere.” We’re not going to let them get away with it. And with your help, we’ll make sure that anyone who tries to stop people from exercising their right to vote ends up behind bars.

Thanks for everything,

–Adam, Eli, Hannah, James, Laura, and the whole MoveOn PAC Team

October 27th, 2004

P.S.: If you have any questions, you can find your Secretary of State’s office online at:

http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections.htm

Or try reaching their office by phone, at:

916-657-2166

Footnotes:

1. http://www.klas-tv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2421595&nav=168XRvNe

2. Greg Palast, Harper’s Magazine, October 2004.

3. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/politics/9992999.htm

PAID FOR BY MOVEON PAC http://www.moveonpac.org

Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

One thought on “Protecting Your Right to Vote

  1. >First, document it. If there are specific individuals involved who

    >are challenging your right to vote, intimidating voters, or

    >interfering with the process, try to get their names. Write down

    >exactly what happened, including the time of day, descriptions

    >of the people involved, and any other details you can

    >remember.

    Here’s where blogs come in: what better tool to document what we see, hear, witness, observe at the polls? I’ll be systematically making my way through the blogroll next Tuesday for voter coverage . . .

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