Note: I am not affiliated with Election Protection. I just think they’re awesome and I want to make sure that people know about them.
If someone tells you that you can’t vote, or you run into other barriers, consider calling the Election Protection Hotline. 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). They’re a hotline run by lawyers who really, really care about making sure that everyone has the right to vote. (Hours and information about partner hotlines in additional languages at this link.) They’re nonpartisan; they don’t care which candidate you vote for, they just want to protect your right to vote.
They can help you figure out what to do if your polling place isn’t accessible, or if it runs out of ballots, if someone tries to intimidate you (or someone else), or if someone tells you that you don’t have the right ID, or other things like that. If you’re not sure whether the law is being followed at your polling place, or you’re not sure who is an official and who isn’t, Election Protection can help. And just, generally speaking, they care about your voting rights, they know what they’re talking about, and they will tell you the truth.
The problem with this is, the only way to talk to them is on the phone, and talking on the phone is really hard for a lot of people. So, in case it helps, here’s some information about what it’s like to call them, and some scripts you might use if you’re having trouble figuring out how to communicate. (You don’t *have* to use these scripts; don’t let it be a barrier to calling for help if you need help. They’re offered in case it is helpful; these are not rules.):
When you call the Election Protection Hotline, they will want to know where you are. This is because the laws are different in different states:
- Their phone system guesses which state you are calling from based on your area code, and asks you to confirm.
- If you say you’re in a different area, the system will ask you to enter your state’s two-letter abbreviation on your phone’s dial pad.
- (For instance, North Carolina is NC, which is 62 on a dial pad).
- (If you’re not sure what your state’s abbreviation is, Wikipedia has a list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_abbreviations)
- (It also may be helpful to know which county you’re in, because counties sometimes have their own rules. If you’re not sure, you can check online here. http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/zip-code-county.php But if you’re not sure, call anyway.)
Once you tell the phone system where you are calling from, the phone system will transfer you to a volunteer:
- (If no one is immediately available, you might get an answering machine that says you’re calling after hours. If that happens during hours the hotline is open, just try calling back.)
- The volunteer will ask for your phone number in case you get disconnected, and may also ask for your name.
- Then they will want to know what’s going on, and what you need help with:
If you haven’t voted yet and you’re trying to get information you need in order to vote:
- You can say something like “I’m trying to make a voting plan, and I have a question about voting in my area”.
- For instance “I’m preparing to go vote, and I’m not sure whether I have the right ID. Can you help me figure out if any of the things I have are accepted as IDs where I vote?”
- Or “I’m not sure where my polling place is.”
- Or “I just got out of prison for a felony. Can I vote?”
If you are at the polls and having a problem right now:
- You might want to say something along the lines of “I’m at my polling place trying to vote, and I’m having a problem”.
- For instance, “I’m at my polling place, and they just told me that I’m not on the list and can’t vote. What should I do?”
- Or “I’m in line waiting to vote, and people who say that they are poll monitors keep asking to see my ID. How do I get them to leave me alone?”
- Or “I can’t get into my polling place because it’s inaccessible, so I need curbside voting. I can’t get anyone to acknowledge me. How can I get them to give me a ballot?”
- Or “I’m in line waiting to vote. Someone is approaching voters in line and speaking to them in a language I don’t understand. Some people are leaving right after this person talks to them. Is this intimidation?”
- Or “I’m at my polling place, and I just found some Spanish language flyers that say that Election Day is tomorrow instead of today.”
If you’re reporting a problem that happened earlier or on another day,
- You can say something like “I saw something during Early Voting…” or “When I voted this morning…”.
- For instance: “When I voted during Early Voting last week, some people were turned away because they didn’t have IDs. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I’ve heard since then that our state doesn’t actually require IDs for voting. What’s going on?”
- Or “When I voted this morning, the accessible voting machine wasn’t set up, and no one there knew how to use it. I didn’t have time to come back, so I had someone assist me. Did the polling place break the law?”
- Or “I cast a provisional ballot. Do I need to do anything to make sure that my vote will be counted?”
And so on. Once they know what the problem is, they will talk to you about next steps. (This page has stories about issues they’ve recorded and/or responded to and their Twitter feed and Facebook page also have stories/examples.)