12 Ways You Can Safeguard Your Vote
Will it happen again? On November 6, we may see voters waiting in long lines, only to find they’re not on the voter rolls or because they now need to show ID to vote. In a new twist, some people may refrain from voting because they think they need ID, even when they actually don’t.
If you’re worried that we will wake up November 7 to find election procedures in question, read on.
The staff at YES! Magazine has researched the recommendations of voting integrity advocates and offers 12 ways you can protect your own vote—and the fairness of the system. Please forward this checklist to others to help make our election system work.
Before Election Day
1. Check your registration. Even if you think you're registered, you might not be. Check online at www.CanIVote.org. Or call your local election officials (find their contact information at the Overseas Vote Foundation).
2. Find out where your polling place is and check the opening and closing times. Polling places can change. If you wait until the last minute, you can always track down your polling place by calling 1-866-OURVOTE or texting “vote” to 69866.
3. Mail with care. If you’re voting by mail, check carefully where you need to sign, how to seal the envelope, and how to mark the ballot. Note that some ballots weigh more than an ounce and require extra postage.
4. Vote early. If you encounter problems, you'll have time to sort them out and may be able to help others.
5. Find out whether your state requires ID to vote, and what kind. You can find a state-by-state guide with details about your state’s requirements at www.866ourvote.org/state.
6. Find out who’s in charge. Make a phone list of your county and state election officials—it may save valuable time on Election Day if you need to get registration verification or other information.
On Election Day
7. Be sure to bring whatever ID your state may require. It’s always a good idea to take along some form of government-issued identification, such as your driver's license. You may not need it, but it's best to have it.
8. Bring your cell phone, if you have one. If you encounter or observe any problems, call a hotline immediately (see point #11).
9. Ask for a paper ballot. If you don't want to use a machine, see if your polling place can provide a paper ballot. Some states, such as California, require polling places to have these available on request. If machines aren't working or there are other problems, ask for an emergency ballot (although they may not be available everywhere).
10. Verify your vote. If you’re voting on an electronic voting machine, check the review screen to make sure it reflects your vote. If the machine produces a paper record (27 states require one), read it carefully to make sure it correctly reflects your vote. If it is incorrect, speak to a polling attendant. Don’t leave until you’re sure your vote has been properly recorded.
11. Document and report. If you encounter or observe difficulties such as excessive lines, voter harassment, or malfunctioning machines, be sure to take pictures and write down the details. Get all the facts you can—location, names, and specific problem.
We recommend two nationwide networks where you can report problems. One is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), which will have volunteer lawyers in many locations standing by to provide assistance. The other is 1-866 MY VOTE-1 (1-866-698-6831), which will record your problem by voicemail, then forward your call to your local board of elections. Both will enter the information you provide into a database, then use that information to support challenges to problem elections, as well as demands for reform in the future.
Into the future
12. Work for fair, transparent elections. Voice your questions about voting machines, voter suppression, and election problems promptly. Keep the issue in front of your election officials. If we want clean, trustworthy elections in 2014, we have to start working on it now.
Want more information? Here are three websites from the leading edge on voting issues.
Fran Korten, Doug Pibel, and Paul Mozur wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. We'd also like to thank the staff at Demos, who helped us with some last-minute updates.
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