I’m hoping all our US readers who are eligible to vote are planning to hit the polls tomorrow (or have already voted absentee or via early voting) to participate in the election. If you’re in a battleground state, obviously your vote is especially important, but even if you’re not, there are a lot of important local, regional, and statewide races that you should be participating in so you can have a say in the process of politics in your state. As many of you are also no doubt aware, this has been a year of unprecedented (in recent memory) voter suppression efforts, which means that there may be some pitfalls on the way to the polls, if not for you, than for those around you.
I don’t think I need to lecture you on the candidates and the issues at this point, since y’all are extremely well-informed, but if you’re doing last-minute research, Project Vote Smart, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Women Voters are great places to start. For those of you tackling ballot measures, Ballotpedia is a handy resource as well.
Make sure your vote gets counted this year, and please, while you’re at it? Look out for the interests of the people voting alongside you.
First, here’s a resource you can use to locate your polling place. If your county, parish, or borough doesn’t have information available online, there should be a phone number listed that you can use. Information about how late the polls are open is also available through government websites or representatives. If you are in a region where voter ID is required, this site also has information on acceptable identification. Do not rely on other sources for information about polling places, and remind friends and family of this as well. Misleading signage, robocalls, and other tactics have been used to trick people into missing an opportunity to vote.
Don’t be afraid to print out this information. The ACLU also has a state-by-state guide to voting rights. Be aware that because of voter suppression efforts, your state’s legislation may have changed; doublecheck before going to the polls to make sure you have what you need and know what your rights are. In several states, pending legislation and suits may affect practices at the polls, so it’s especially important to know what the current situation is. Hurricane Sandy has also resulted in some last-minute changes: Election Protection is maintaining regularly-updated information for voters here.
There’s also some specific information on voting rights for disabled voters that you might want to have as well. Here’s a list of resources for disabled voters in California, for example. For other states, try Googling ‘disability rights [state]’ to access a given state’s main disability advocacy group or ‘disabled voting rights [state]’ for specific information on a state’s rights for disabled voters. Even if you aren’t disabled, please consider looking this information up and having it available at the polls, because it may prove useful for someone else.
Armed with information about where to go, when to go, what you need, and your rights as a voter, hopefully you’ll have a smooth experience at the polls and you won’t notice any irregularities. If, however, you do notice that you or another voter is intimidated, denied reasonable accommodations, or otherwise subjected to civil rights violations, take action to protect your rights and the rights of others. Report the situation to the polling place supervisor, and indicate that you’re willing to provide assistance to other voters if they feel intimidated or confused.
You should also report problems at the polls to your Secretary of State; here’s a directory of Secretaries of State. In addition, Election Protection (1.866.OUR.VOTE) is taking reports of problems at the polls online, over the phone, and via mobile app. Report irregularities whether or not they are resolved, and indicate what the current status of the problem is when you report them. Provide as much information as possible about the precinct, time, people involved, and other facts of the situation.
If you’re feeling especially fired up, you can volunteer for phone banks and local get out the vote efforts, contacting voters to see if they’ve made it to the polls and encouraging them to vote. Or you can just smugly swan around with your ‘I voted’ sticker while waiting for results to come in. Your choice.
Every vote matters, and every vote should be counted. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks out there working to make sure that doesn’t happen, so it’s time to suit up and help out. Participation in democracy this year doesn’t begin and end with dropping your ballot in the box; we’re in this together, and solidarity means you need to make sure everyone’s ballot makes it through to the end.