Thursday, October 30, 2008

Early Voting Hazards and Victories

The Institute for Southern Studies reports voters are waiting in line for hours in early voting in Florida (fortunately, Governor Charlie Crist has extended voting hours).

The NAACP has sued the state of Virginia in an effort to get additional voting machines and longer hours to accommodate the anticipated record turn out.

A successful suit in the state of Pennsylvania means precincts where more than half of the voting machines are broken must offer the use of paper ballots, according to Steven Rosenfeld, who has been doing some excellent tracking of election fairness at Alternet.

These are just a few of the reports from places across the United States where election integrity groups are working to protect our right to vote. We created the YES! "12 Ways You Can Safeguard the Vote" as a checklist reminder of what you can do to make sure your vote counts, and to help others.

Here are some other updates from this week, with additional things you can do on election day at the end of this blog.

Common Cause Colorado, Service Employees Union International, and Mi Familia Vota, filed suit last week to get 30,000 Colorado registered voters, who were purged from voting rolls by the secretary of state, reinstated.

Common Cause reports that a phony flier is circulating in Virginia telling Republicans to vote on November 4 and Democrats to vote on December 5. The organization urges voters to be on the lookout for other deceptive practices, including in emails and websites.

The Brennan Center for Justice has an excellent list of the types of barriers voters may face before or on election day, and examples of voter suppression during recent weeks.

So what can you do if you have trouble at the polls?

Vote early so you have time to resolve any voting problems and so you can assist other voters.

If you have a problem, call the voter protection hotline numbers: 1-866-OUR-VOTE 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (in Spanish) or 1-866-MYVOTE1 .

Go to VoterStory.org and fill out the complaint form.

Record video of any problems you see with polling -- then upload your video to Video the Vote. Remember, a lot of ordinary digital camera have a video function.

If you see votes on an electronic machine "flipping" from the candidate you chose to another candidate, ask the poll worker to recalibrate the machine, says Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice. Check to make sure the review screen shows the correct vote, and if there's a paper trail, check it also. Then call The Election Protection Hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, to report the problem.

Twitter about what you see, or participate in the Voter Suppression wiki.

If you see people waiting in long lines, bring them refreshments, offer umbrellas, use of a cell phone, reading materials, and other encouragement. If you have the talent, sing, dance, or do theater. (But keep it non-political. Electioneering is often prohibited at or near polling places). Help keep the people in line from giving up.

Forward on the checklist: 12 Ways to Safeguard the Vote, to your email list. And check out these other great resources on voting integrity.

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