Protecting your right to vote in the US

If you live in the United States, exercising your right to vote can be challenging, especially if you live in the South. This is likely to get worse, because some Voting Rights Act protections were recently struck down.

Things to know: 

If you are in line when the polls close, you have the right to vote. 

  • Stay in line. Do not leave without voting. 
  • (If you leave after the polls close, you probably won’t be able to get back in line.)

In most states, you need to register in order to vote:

  • Most states require you to register in advance. 
  • (Some states require you to register *months* in advance).
  • Some states allow same-day registration.
  • Some states allow same-day registration for presidential elections only.
  • You can check registration requirements on vote.org. 

Some states require voters to show ID:

  • Some states require IDs for registration.
  • Some states require you to show ID every time you vote.
  • Some states require first-time voters to show ID.
  • In most states, a lot of different things count as ID. 
  • (Eg: In some states, you can use a utility bill.)
  • Know in advance whether your state requires ID, and what kind of ID it requires.
  • If you have ID, bring it even if you’re not sure it’s required.
  • voteriders.org (and their hotline 844-338-8743) has good information on voter ID requirements.

Some states allow you to vote early:

  • If you can vote early, it’s a good idea to do so.
  • That way, if there’s a problem, you’re more likely to be able to solve it in time to vote.

You have the right to cast a provisional ballot if your eligibility to vote is questioned:

  • If you’re registered to vote but don’t appear on the polls at your polling place, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot.
  • If you don’t have ID, or your ID is not accepted, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot.
  • You may have to do something afterwards, like show ID to the elections office.
  • That said, it’s better to cast a regular ballot, because provisional ballots are frequently invalidated. 
  • If your right to vote is challenged, try to get help before casting a provisional ballot. 
  • http://www.866ourvote.org/issues/provisional-balloting

If your right to vote is challenged, there are people who can help:

  • The Election Protection Hotline 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
  • In major elections, Election Protection often also has in-person legal volunteers at the polls to help people protect their voting rights.
  • Your state probably has a voting rights organization, and you can probably find it by googling “voting rights [your state]”.
  • The candidate that you want to vote for may have a voting rights hotline on election day. 
  • If you face disability-related voting discrimination, your best bet might be your state’s disability rights organization, which you can often find by googling “disability rights [your state]” or “disability voting [your state]”.