voting

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]”.

Why you should vote even if an election isn’t close

Sometimes, it seems obvious who is going to win an election. Even in that kind of election, it’s still important to vote.

Your vote matters, even when your candidate loses. Voting sends a powerful message to politicians. Every vote against a politician tells them that some people dislike their policies, and that it is costing them votes. Politicians care about everything that costs them votes, because their jobs depend on continuing to win elections.

It matters who wins elections. It also matters how much they win by. The closer an election is, the more the winning politician has to care what the opposition thinks. Even in a state where one party is almost certainly going to win, there’s a big different between getting 90% of the votes and getting 40% of the votes.

When you vote against a politician, you’re sending a powerful message. It makes everything else you do more effective. It means they’re more likely to listen when you and others call them. It means they’re more likely to feel that they have to show up at town halls, and more likely to take what you say seriously. Voting creates leverage in ways that matter, even when you lose.

This is also true when your candidate is almost certainly going to win. Vote anyway, because it matters how much they win by — every vote they get gives them more power to enact their agenda. When they win by more votes, they don’t have to be as worried about the opposition. 

(And in any case, it’s inadvisable to get complacent. Sometimes elections are much closer than they seem.)

Your vote matters, even if your candidate loses. Your vote matters, even when your candidate is almost certainly going to win. It’s important to go vote when you’re eligible, even if it’s unlikely to change the results. Even when voting doesn’t change the outcome of the election, it does change the political facts on the ground.

Tl;dr Vote when you can, even in elections that aren’t close. It puts pressure on politicians in ways that matter. Whether or not your vote affects which politician wins, it will affect what the winning politician does.

If an abuser is making you take a ballot selfie, you can still vote the way you want to

If abusive people in your life are expecting you to take a ballot selfie, this doesn’t need to prevent you from voting the way you want to vote. You can fill out a ballot the way they want you to, take a selfie, spoil the ballot instead of casting it, and then vote a new ballot the way that *you* want to vote.

(Note: Taking ballot selfies is actually illegal in several states. In any case, I think taking ballot selfies is a really, really bad idea. But since I know people are doing it, I am writing this to help people protect their right to cast a secret ballot)

Here’s a step by step list of how to do this:

  • Step one: Get your ballot.
  • Step two: Fill out the ballot the way your abusers want you to. *Do not cast it*. Do not put it in the ballot box. (If you are using a voting machine, *do not tap vote* and *do not pull the final voting lever*. )
  • Step three: Take a selfie with the ballot filled out the way your abuser wants you to vote.
  • Step four: Spoil the ballot and ask for a new one (Or if you’re using a voting machine, go back and correct your vote). Draw a line down the middle, and bring the spoiled ballot back to the table where you got the ballot. 
  • Tell the polling person that you made a mistake, and ask for a new ballot. They should take back your spoiled ballot and exchange it for a new one.
  • (If they won’t give you a new ballot, tell their supervisor or call 866-OUR-VOTE for help. You have the right to start over with a new ballot if you make a mistake. *So long as you have not put it in the ballot box yet*. Once you’ve put it in the ballot box, you can’t take it back.) 
  • (If you’re using voting machines and aren’t sure how to start over, ask the polling officials for help. They are required to help you. (But make sure that you don’t press the Vote button or pull a final lever before you fix your ballot! Once you press Vote or pull the voting lever, your vote is final and you can’t undo it.)
  • Step five: Fill out your new ballot the way you want to fill it out. 
  • Step six: Cast your real ballot that you have just filled out. (Put it in the ballot box, pull the lever, or push the Vote button).

Tl;dr If abusers are trying to coerce your vote by making you take a ballot selfie, you can take the selfie and still vote the way you want to. Scroll up for step by step instructions.

Your election t-shirt may not be allowed inside the polls

Campaigning is not allowed inside polling places, or a certain distance from them. Once you are inside your polling place, no one is allowed to try to influence your vote — and you’re not allowed to try to influence anyone else’s vote inside the polling place either. This is a really strict rule, and it probably means that you won’t be allowed to wear a shirt or button with your candidate’s name/logo on it inside the polls.

The rules against campaigning inside a polling place are really strict in order to protect voters from intimidation. Voting is private, polls are private places, and there are a lot of rules and laws in place to protect them. You also can’t do things like pass out flyers, hold up signs, or answer questions about candidates inside the polls. Generally speaking, anything with a candidate or party’s name visible is likely to be seen as campaigning — including a button or t-shirt that you are wearing. (Or a candidate’s logo, or anything else obviously partisan.)  

Since people wear election shirts/buttons as a way to campaign for their candidates, they’re generally not allowed inside the polls. So, if you wear a candidate shirt/button to the polls on election day, you will most likely be asked to take it off or cover it up. If you’re planning to wear a pin, you can put it in your pocket or pin it to the inside of your shirt while you’re inside the polls. If you’re planning to wear a campaign t-shirt, bring something with you to cover it up with. The exact rules vary state-by-state, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.

tl;dr Campaigning is not allowed inside polling places. Wearing a t-shirt with a candidate’s name or party’s name visible is likely to be considered campaigning, just like if you were holding up a sign for your candidate. If you’re planning to wear a campaign t-shirt or button on election day, be prepared to take it off or cover it up while you are actually voting.

More on calling the Election Protection Hotline for help with voting rights

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.)

Let’s drop Pokemon Go lures near polling places

Content note: This isn’t really a social skills information post so much as a (nonpartisan) thing I’m planning on doing on voting day in the hopes that it will make voting more pleasant for some people.

I’m planning on dropping Pokemon Go lures on and near some polling places on Election Day. I’m doing this because some of the lines are likely to be long, and I think that voting will be more pleasant if people can catch Pokemon while they wait. 

Especially given that some parents will need to bring their children along. I think waiting in long lines might be easier for a lot of kids if there are good Pokemon around. So I’m going to buy a few lures to try and help with that. 

Most polling places are either on Pokestops or very close to Pokestops. I live within walking distance and subway distance of a lot of polling locations, and I can afford a few lures, so for me, this is pretty doable. Anyone else want to drop lures on Pokestops near polling places?

“Nasty woman” shirts probably aren’t allowed in the polls

I wrote a post about why election shirt are usually not allowed into the polling places on election day. 

@knittedintoacorner reblogged and asked:

Do you think this goes for “nasty woman” T shirts?

So, here’s what I think: Shirts that have slogans on them associated with a candidate probably won’t be allowed into the polls either. If the election official at your polling place sees that slogan and recognizes it as associated with one of the candidates, they will most likely ask you to take it off, turn it inside out, or cover it up. They’re somewhat more likely to be allowed than shirts/buttons with a candidate’s actual name on them, but I’d still be prepared to cover them up.

So if you want to wear a shirt that says something like “nasty woman”, “I’m with her”, “Stronger Together”, “Make America great again”, “drain the swamp” or whatever else, be prepared to cover it up when you’re in the actual polls. If the slogan on your shirt makes it obvious who you are voting for (or against), wearing it inside the polls is likely to be interpreted as campaigning.

Your election t-shirt may not be allowed inside the polls

iridescentgreen:

thefingerfuckingfemalefury:

realsocialskills:

Campaigning is not allowed inside polling places, or a certain distance from them. Once you are inside your polling place, no one is allowed to try to influence your vote — and you’re not allowed to try to influence anyone else’s vote inside the polling place either. This is a really strict rule, and it probably means that you won’t be allowed to wear a shirt or button with your candidate’s name/logo on it inside the polls.

The rules against campaigning inside a polling place are really strict in order to protect voters from intimidation. Voting is private, polls are private places, and there are a lot of rules and laws in place to protect them. You also can’t do things like pass out flyers, hold up signs, or answer questions about candidates inside the polls. Election judges err on the side of caution when deciding what counts as campaigning. Generally speaking, anything with a candidate or party’s name visible is likely to be seen as campaigning — including a button or t-shirt that you are wearing. (The same may go for logos)  

Since people wear election shirts/buttons as a way to campaign for their candidates, they’re generally not allowed inside the polls. So, if you wear a candidate shirt/button to the polls on election day, you will most likely be asked to take it off or cover it up. If you’re planning to wear a pin, you can put it in your pocket or pin it to the inside of your shirt while you’re inside the polls. If you’re planning to wear a campaign t-shirt, bring something with you to cover it up with. 

tl;dr Campaigning is not allowed inside polling places. Wearing a t-shirt with a candidate’s name or party’s name visible is likely to be considered campaigning, just like if you were holding up a sign for your candidate. If you’re planning to wear a campaign t-shirt or button on election day, be prepared to take it off or cover it up while you are actually voting.

IMPORTANT

Do not go to vote wearing a T shirt like this and if you are wearing any badges or stickers like this take them off before going into the polling place

Here in Texas I’ve already seen polling places with Republican candidates yard signs and people in line wearing shirts supporting Republican candidates (or bashing non-republicans) weren’t turned away. Conservatives aren’t playing by the rules in many states, but they’ll still do everything they can to prevent you from casting your ballot.

Election Protection (nonpartisan voting rights organization led by lawyers) and the Department of Justice both want to hear about law violations like this.

The Election Protection Hotline can be reached at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), (Spanish/English: 888-Ve-Y-Vota 888-839-8682), (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi Tagalog, or English: 888-API-VOTE), (Arabic/English: 844-418-1682)

You can report possible violations of voting rights laws to the Department of Justice in various ways:

Online complaint form 
Email: voting.section@usdoj.gov
Phone (800) 253-3931 (toll free)
Phone (202) 307-2767
Fax (202) 307-3961
TTY  877-267-8971

How to call for help if your voting rights are violated or you have questions about voting

If someone tries to stop you from voting, or you run into other problems, or you just have questions, there are election hotlines which may be able to help. There are nonpartisan lines in several languages. The Democratic Party also has an ASL video phone line and a texting line. The Department of Justice has several ways to report possible voting rights violations. The NFB has a line specifically for blind and low vision voters. There may also be resources specific to your state. 

The Election Protection Hotline  866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) is nonpartisan. They’re run by lawyers who care about protecting everyone’s right to vote. They’re also affiliated with a couple of other organizations who have hotlines in additional languages. They work to make sure individual voters can vote:
Spanish/English: 888-Ve-Y-Vota 888-839-8682 by NALEO Educational fund 
Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi Tagalog, or English: 888-API-VOTE  APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC.
Arabic/English: 844-418-1682 Arab American Institute’s #YallaVote hotline 

The National Federation of the Blind has an election hotline for blind and low vision voters (nonpartisan): 877-632-1940 (November 8 from 7 a.m. EST to 7 p.m. PST)

The Democratic Party also has hotlines for voter assistance, including an ASL line and a texting number (I don’t know of any nonpartisan texting or ASL options unfortunately):
Voice: 844-464-4455
For texting, you can text QUESTION to 47246.
ASL voting hotline, 240-204-6475 on videophone (VP) There’s an ASL video about this hotline here.

You can also report possible voting rights violations to the Department of Justice. The DOJ is likely more interested in the overall issue than your case specifically — it’s absolutely worth reporting issues to them, but probably worth trying to contact Election Protection (or one of the affiliated organizations) or the party of the candidate you want to vote for first:
Online complaint form 
voting.section@usdoj.gov
Phone (800) 253-3931 (toll free)
Phone (202) 307-2767
Fax (202) 307-3961
TTY  877-267-8971

There may also be hotline numbers specific to your state.
For instance, in North Carolina, there is
Disability Rights North Carolina  877-235-4210 (888-268-5535 TTY)
The North Carolina State Board of Elections has a form for reporting incidents  and a guide to what is and is not acceptable from people who wish to observe or monitor the polls 
Local county boards of elections also have phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses 

tl;dr If someone tries to stop you from voting, or you run into other problems, or you just have questions, there are election hotlines which may be able to help. There are nonpartisan lines in several languages. The Democratic Party also has an ASL video phone line and a texting line. The Department of Justice has several ways to report possible voting rights violations. The NFB has a line specifically for blind and low vision voters. There may also be resources specific to your state.

Urgent information for North Carolina voters

In North Carolina, early voting is your best chance to make your that you will be able to vote. Early voting ends on the 5th (Saturday). 

The last days to vote early in North Carolina are Friday the 4th, and Saturday the 5th. If you’re reading this post on Friday or Saturday, please try to vote today if you haven’t voted already.

You can vote today (Friday the 4th) or tomorrow (Friday the 5th) *even if you have not already registered to vote*. If you are not already registered to vote, you will not be able to vote on election day. You must vote during early voting.

You must vote in the county you live in. Every county has at least one early voting site, some have more. You can check where your early voting site is on the North Carolina Board of Election website. http://vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite/

If you are not already registered to vote, you will need to present an ID.   (And it’s a good idea to bring one anyway.) These are IDs North Carolina accepts during on-site registration for early voting:

  • a NC driver’s license
  • photo ID from a government agency
  • student photo ID with a school document showing the student’s address
  • or a utility bill, bank statement, payroll stub, or document from any government agency with your name and current address.

If you are already registered to vote, you do *not* need to show ID in order to vote in person. (But it’s a good idea to bring one anyway.)

If you are trans, the National Center For Trans Equality guide “Voting While Trans: Preparing for Voter ID Laws”  may be helpful. It’s also helpful information for anyone whose identity may be challenged for any reason.

If you have been convicted of a felony in the past: If you have served your sentence and are not currently on probation or parole, you *are* eligible to vote in North Carolina. You do not need to apply for restoration of rights, but you *do* need to re-register to vote (your registration was cancelled when you were convicted). You need to re-register to vote, even if you were registered before. If you haven’t already re-registered to vote since you were convicted, you will need to vote during Early Voting (Which ends Saturday the 5th).

If you have a disability and need assistance voting, North Carolina requires poll workers to ask you whether you want assistance, and if so, who you want it from. They are also explicitly required to accept non-verbal forms of communication, including your answers to yes or no questions that they ask. These rules apply both during early voting and on election day.
From the memo sent to polling officials about communicating with voters with disabilities


“”””A qualified voter seeking assistance at the voting place must provide his or her current name and address and request permission to obtain assistance, stating the reasons.4 The requirement to state a reason for the assistance does not require the voter to provide details of the disability. Certain disabilities may affect voters’ ability to vocalize their request, but federal law still provides that such a disabled voter is entitled to
assistance.
Accordingly, elections officials should exercise their best
efforts to understand and respond to individual requests for assistance,
however communicated. State administrative law provides that an election
official may prompt the voter, where appropriate.5

An election official may pose “yes” or “no” questions, may allow the voter to point out the person from whom he or she wishes to receive assistance, or may use the Voter Assistance Section of the Station Guide as a visual tool to ensure that voters are enabled to communicate their request for assistance. In many cases, a voter in need of assistance will be accompanied
by another individual. However, unless the voter requests the assistance of the accompanying individual, that individual is not entitled to assist the
voter. The voter may instead request assistance from election judges or an election assistant.

If you are unable to speak, the election official might ask you to point to options from their election rules handbook. It may be worth familiarizing yourself with that manual and making sure that you will be able to point to the choice you intend. (Or printing it out and bringing a copy to point to yourself). If you are unable to say your name and address, it may be a good idea to bring ID. (It is not legal to require it of you when other voters are not required to present ID, but your ID may be the fastest way to effectively communicate your identify and eligibility to the polling official in a way that they will accept).
Disability Rights North Carolina has more information about disability voting rights in NC.

If you are reading this after the 5th and you need to vote on election day itself:
A voter ID law was passed this year, but it was also struck down by the courts.
So people *tried* to require IDs, and some people may be under the impression that you need IDs in order to vote in North Carolina.
Most voters do not need an ID to vote in person.
“If there was a problem with verifying the information on your registration form” you may be asked to present a current photo ID *or* a utility bill, bank statement, payroll stub, or document from a government agency.
So if you have any of those documents, bring them anyway.

There may be people outside the polls trying to trick you into not voting. Some of them may try to pass themselves off as election officials. They might lie to you about the requirements, or they might try to check your ID and tell you that it’s not valid.

Election officials themselves may also illegally try to tell you that you need ID in order to vote, or may illegally reject an ID they’re required to accept.

If anyone, official or not, tells you that you can’t vote, don’t give up on voting. There may be volunteer lawyers outside the polls who can help you assert your right to vote. If you are able to use a phone, you can also call the (nonpartisan) Election Protection Hotline 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) for help http://www.866ourvote.org/pages/2016-live-hotline-hours-and-dates

In any case, do not leave without voting. If all else fails, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot. http://www.ncvoter.org/voting-in-nc/#six

Disability Rights North Carolina has another list of hotlines you can call to report rights violations: 

  • Your local County Board of Elections http://enr.ncsbe.gov/cbesearch/PrintableVersion.aspx
  • The State Board of Elections at 919-733-7173
  • Election Protection
  • English: 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683)
  • Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)
  • Asian Languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
  • The National Federation of the Blind Election Day Hotline (1-877-632-1940)
  • Disability Rights NC at 877-235-4210 (888-268-5535 TTY)

tl;dr If you vote in North Carolina and haven’t voted yet, your best chance of being able to cast a vote is to vote on Friday the 4th or Saturday the 5th at in-person Early Voting. Scroll up for information on voting rights in North Carolina during Early Voting and on Election Day, including information for disabled voters. 

Voting isn’t like a test in school

timothymcmackin said:

You asked what we wanted to share about voting rights: It took me a couple elections before I learned that voting was not like a test in school. You can plan ahead, look up a sample ballot, and bring selections on paper. You don’t have to memorize your choices. But some places in the USA don’t allow electronic devices in the polling place, so use paper for the notes.

What do you want voters to know about voting in your state?

a-ship-of-meat-and-bone:

realsocialskills:

So, speaking of voting — it’s different in every state.

And a lot of states have strange or counterintuitive rules. Not all of the rules are well know 

Workers at the polls may not know all of the rules, or may tell voters misleading things. It’s very important to know your rights.

I only know about a couple of states. I suspect that a lot of y’all know things that I don’t.

So, what do you want voters to know about how voting works in your state? What do people need to know in order to effectively exercise their right to vote?

a-ship-of-meat-and-bone said:

In Virginia you can vote early! Here’s the list of reasons: http://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/

Note that working outside of your city or county is one of them!

Voting is especially important when the system is unfair

Politicians can, and do, sometimes manipulate the system in ways that makes elections somewhat unfair. That only goes so far. They can’t interfere with the secrecy of the ballot, and they can’t stuff the ballot boxes. They can’t actually rig elections.

What they can sometimes do is draw electoral districts favorable to them, or make it harder for groups likely to vote against them to vote. All of this unfairness can be defeated with high voter turnout.

Unfairness doesn’t mean it’s impossible to win. Unfairness means that it’s really, really important to vote.

In order to defeat unfairness, it’s important to know the laws in your state. It’s important to know which barriers may be in place to make it harder to vote, and how to insist on your right to vote anyway. And to make sure that others know how to insist on their rights. Unfair elections are not rigged elections. It is possible to vote in a way that matters.

For instance, many states have laws requiring voters to show identification. In most states, this doesn’t have to be a state-issued ID. Don’t assume that you can’t vote if you don’t have an ID. You can find out what the specific requirements are in your state, and make sure that others know them. It’s likely that you and others have, or can get, a form of ID that counts. Vote 411 has information about ID requirements, and other potential barriers. You can also find out about ID requirements from your state’s board of elections website.

Tl;dr Some elections are somewhat unfair, but they’re not rigged. One of the most common ways elections are made unfair is by tricking eligible voters out of voting. The more unfair an election is, the more important it is to exercise your right to vote — and to support others in exercising theirs.

Voting when you don’t want to vote for either candidate

There’s an election coming up in the US. It occurred to me that the way we usually describe it may be misleading to some Americans who haven’t voted before.  We call it a presidential election, but there’s a lot more than that on the ballot. We call it casting your vote, but it’s not really one vote, it’s more like a lot of different votes that happen to be on the same piece of paper or the same screen.

You don’t have to cast a vote in every contest that’s on your ballot. If you don’t want to cast a vote for some of the offices, you can still cast your vote for all the offices you *do* want to vote for. For instance, some people vote for a presidential candidate and the other federal offices, but don’t bother with the local politics. Some people do the reverse and only vote in local campaigns. Or any number of other things. You don’t have to vote for everything to vote for something.

Speaking personally, I wish I had realized this sooner. I didn’t vote in one of the elections I was eligible to vote in, because I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either presidential candidate. I regret that, in part because I don’t think I did any good by not voting (one of them won anyway, I just didn’t get any influence over which one). But even aside from that, and I think in some ways more importantly — I regret sitting that election out because there were so many other things on the ballot I could have voted for.

If I wasn’t willing to vote for a President, I could have voted for a senator and a congressional representative. If I wasn’t willing to vote for the federal candidates, I could have voted for state-level elected officials. If I wasn’t willing to vote for state officials, I could have voted in the local contests for mayor, for town council, for sheriff, and for school board. If I couldn’t bring myself to vote for any candidate for any federal, state, or local office, I could at least have voted for the local library bond measure.

In the town I lived in, a lot of the public library’s funding depends on the voters. When bond measure are approved, the library gets more funding. It can be open more hours. They have more and better books, computers, and programming. Immigrants who need help learning English, and kids and adults who need help learning to read, are much more likely to get it. Growing up, I remember the bond measures being voted down more often than not.

Moving into an area in which the library is well funded, I can see what a difference that makes. The library closest to me has a lot of high quality books, science discovery kits for kids, homework help, a programming camp for teenagers, ASL interpretation and captioning at library programs for people who request it, ASL learning resources, public meeting rooms, discussion groups for English learners, and any number of other things that matter. All of those things cost money, and libraries can only do them if they get funded. Elections tend to affect that either directly by voting on a bond measure, or indirectly by electing a candidate who does or doesn’t prioritize libraries.

So — if you’re where I was at back then, if you don’t want to vote for a presidential candidate — you don’t have to stay home to abstain from that. If you can’t stand any of the candidates for mayor, or president, or senate, or whatever other office, you can still vote for everything else. If there’s only one issue you can stand to vote on, or one office you can stand to pick a candidate for, it’s still your vote, and you still have the right to cast it. There’s going to be a lot on the ballot that’s available to you. It’s worth knowing what it is.

If you want to find out what will be on your local ballot, www.VOTE411.org has information. You can enter your address and get a sample ballot and information about how to register to vote. Votesmart.org also has information about local candidates. If you want to find out whether things you’ve heard about a state or federal candidate are true, politifact.com and factcheck.org are good resources. The Legaue You can also google your local board of elections website (“[your county] board of elections] and “voting in [your state]” are search terms that usually get useful results.

Tl;dr If you’re eligible to vote in a US election, and you’re not sure that you want to vote this year, it’s worth finding out what will be on your local ballot beyond the presidential election. There may be things you do want to vote for.

Verifying that you are registered to vote in the US election

fridayiminlooove asked: I’m pretty sure I’m registered to vote, but I want to make sure, is there a way to double check?

Realsocialskills answered:

Yes, there is. Voter registration (including party affiliation if you’re registered with a party) is a matter of public record, and it is possible to check.

The easiest starting place is vote.org.

They have a tool for checking whether you’re registered. They also have a tool for helping you register if you’re not already.

That said, vote.org isn’t always right. Sometimes they will say that you are not registered when you actually are. (It says I’m not, and I definitely am.)

If vote.org says that you are not registered, it will also give you a link to the website associated with your precinct. (It may be a state-level, county-level, city-level or some other level site.) Your precinct will have a more complete registration list. Most areas have online tools for checking. If they don’t, you can probably find out by calling your board of elections (there will be a phone number on the website).

Voting in US presidential elections matters (even though the president isn’t quite directly elected)

Anonymous asked: Re: voting: Why does your vote for president matter when the electoral college chooses the president?

Realsocialskills answered: Your vote for President matters because the voters determine who the electoral college chooses in your state.

Each state gets a certain number of electoral college votes. After the state’s polls close and the votes are tallied, the electors meet. The electors vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates the majority of voters voted for. So, the voters in your state, including you, determine how your state will vote.

(The legal mechanics of this vary state-by-state, and in some states they are technically not legally required to vote this way. But in practice there is a very, very strong tradition of always doing so, to the point that there may as well be a law.)

Your vote also matters even if it doesn’t influence the outcome of the election. It doesn’t just matter who wins, it also matters how much they win by. Because politicians and political parties want to keep winning elections, they pay close attention to what’s popular and unpopular with voters.

When a large majority of American voters vote for a particular candidate, it shows that their strategy for getting elected was really effective. Other politicians, and political parties, take this into account when they make decisions. Anything that wins a lot of votes will influence what politicians do to seek political power, and what they do with their power once they have it.

This means that presidents who win by a huge majority of votes have much more power to keep their campaign promises. Most campaign promises are in significant part about changing the law. There are some things the president can do unilaterally, but most of the really important changes require Congress to vote on new laws.

Senators and members of Congress can decide to support the change, oppose it, or remain neutral. When a president wins by a large majority, politicians have to consider the possibility that opposing the president’s agenda would cost them votes.

If the president didn’t win by so much or even lost the popular vote, senators and members of congress don’t have to worry so much about opposing them — and may even get the message that opposing them will get them votes. (It’s particularly important how people in their state or district voted, even if it doesn’t influence the outcome of the national election. Even if the candidate lost in your state, if they got more votes than expected, your politicians will notice.)

The outcome of the popular vote also influences how likely presidents are to keep the campaign promises that they *are* in a position to keep unilaterally. Presidents want to get elected for a second term, and they want candidates from their party to keep winning after they leave office. When they win a strong majority of the popular vote, it sends the message that keeping their campaign promises will help them to get reelected and will make their party stronger.

It also influences the positions and strategies of the political parties. When a president wins by a lot of votes, their political party will usually focus on continuing to appeal to the voters who voted for them. The other party will also usually try to figure out how to appeal to those voters more. This affects which candidates they pick, and which positions they support and oppose.

Politicians want to get elected, parties want to run candidates who can win. When appealing to a certain group gets a party a huge number of votes, they’re more likely to keep doing it. When it doesn’t influence the election much, they’re more likely to conclude that that group isn’t an important demographic for winning elections. When it makes them lose, they’re likely to distance themselves.

For instance, a political party may run a campaign based on appealing to marginalized groups. If this wins them the election by a large margin, they get the message that winning elections depends on continuing to work on issues those groups care about. That will influence how winning candidates vote, and it will influence how all candidates campaign.

Similarly, a party may run a presidential campaign based on appealing to xenophobic racists. If this causes them to lose an election by a wide margin, they’re more likely to distance themselves from xenophobic racists. Likewise, if a party’s position on immigration, education, taxes, or whatever else gets them a lot of votes or loses them a lot of votes, it will influence their choices about whether and to what extent they continue to promote that policy.

Also, your congressional representative, your senator, and your state officials are directly elected. So is your school board, your city council, your mayor, and probably your county sheriff. So if you’re going to show up and vote for them, you may as well also vote for president. Every elected office matters, and every vote ultimately counts.

Tl;dr The mechanics of voting for President of the United States are fairly odd, but your vote matters anyway. Scroll up for an explanation of why.

Shout out to Americans adult who won't be voting today

wombatking:

chicagolatkegirl:

realsocialskills:

If you’re an American adult, there’s a lot of intense pressure to vote right now.

And I know that, for all kinds of reasons, a lot of you won’t be able to vote today. And all of you matter too.

Some of you may be unable to travel to the polls.

Some of you may have been convicted of a crime (rightly or wrongly).

Some of you may have been declared mentally incompetent by a judge.

Some of you may not have been able to figure out how to get a ballot in time.

Some of you might be at home taking care of kids with no one available to watch them so that you can go to the polls.

Some of you might have abusive partners who are preventing you from voting.

Some of you might be avoiding a stalker who knows your polling location.

Or any number of reasons.

Voting is important, but it is not the end all and be all of civic responsibility. If you for whatever reason aren’t able to exercise your right to vote, you’re still an American, you’re still an adult, and your voice still matters. (And if you’re neither an American nor an adult, your voice also still matters.) You have not failed or forfeited the right to have an opinion on political issues.

Whether or not you vote today, you matter and it’s good that you care about things, and it’s ok to keep caring about things.

chicagolatkegirl said:

I would like to add that some people may have attempted to register to vote but been denied due to handwriting (like I was twice), since many people have motor control difficulties.

wombatking said:

I can confirm this. My handwriting has gotten weaker since high school when I first registered, and my signature is a lot more “abstract” than it was then. I usually have to show ID to prove it’s me when I sign in, and many places may be stricter and cause even more trouble. 

What to expect on election day:

cocksucking-accent:

dinosaurusrachelus:

realsocialskills:

What’s the process of voting like when you go to your polling place?

realsocialskills said:

Generally it is something like this:

You go to your designated polling place. (Your polling place is assigned based on your address; in most states you have to go to that exact place and not another voting location.)

The polling place will likely be in either a school or a church.

At most times of day, there will be a long line. When you are done waiting in the line, you will check in. There will probably be a table staffed by election volunteers. They will check to make sure that you are on the list for that location. In some states, they will check your ID. They will then cross you off the list to prevent you from voting twice.

They will probably give you a small sticker with an American flag and the words “I voted”.

Once you are checked in, they will direct you to an available voting booth. The booth will have a curtain that you are supposed to close so that no one can see who you voted for.

Some people bring their children along to teach them about the importance of voting. It is considered acceptable to bring a child into the voting booth with you. It is not considered acceptable to bring along an adult, unless you have a disability and need physical assistance voting.

The exact process of voting depends on the state. Some states use various kinds of paper ballots. If your state uses paper ballots, you will mark your ballot in the booth and then bring it to a ballot box or ballot scanning machine. If your state uses voting machines, you will complete the voting process inside the booth.

Most ballots allow you to decide between voting a straight party ticket, or voting for individual candidates. If you vote the straight party ticket, that means you select the party you want to vote for, and automatically vote for all of their candidates. This is a good option if you know that you only want to vote for Democrats, or only want to vote for Republicans, and you’re worried that you might make a mistake in marking your ballot if you mark each candidate individually. (It’s generally not a useful option if you want to vote for third party candidates, since most of the races will only have Republican and Democratic candidates. It is likely to be a better idea to vote for your third party candidate in their race, then vote in all the other races for the candidates you prefer.)

You don’t have to vote in every race. For instance, if you only care who is running for Congress, you can leave the slots for mayor and school board blank.

Some states (eg: California) have ballot initiatives you can vote on. That means that the voters directly vote on some laws. Voting a straight party ticket doesn’t affect those issues one way or another; you vote on them individually.

Most counties have bond measures. That’s basically a vote on whether to raise taxes in order to fund something like a library or school expansion. Those are also things you vote on directly even if you voted the straight party ticket for candidates.

Campaigning isn’t allowed inside the polling place, or within a certain distance of the polling place. No campaigning means that no one is allowed to put up signs for candidates, or try to convince you to vote the way they want you to. At the polling place, they are required to leave you alone.

In practice, this means that campaigners will usually hang around as close to the polling places as it’s legal for them to be. There will probably be signs right at the border, and likely people in that area talking about candidates. It’s ok to talk to them if you want to; it’s also ok not to. They usually won’t be aggressive about bothering people; if they break the rules, they can be kicked out of the area.

When you leave the polling place (especially if you vote late in the day), there might be reporters (or high school civics students) hanging around nearby. They might ask you who you voted for. Reporters ask this because they want to predict who will win the election before the official results are announced.

The Voting Information Project can tell you where your polling place is and other information specific to your area.

dinosaurusrachelus said:

Great info for in-person voting states! Three states - Washington, Oregon and Colorado - are vote-by-mail, which means your ballot is mailed to you and you fill it out and send it back. If you’re registered to vote but didn’t get a ballot, call your county elections office - usually run through the county auditor. They will probably have information about sending you a replacement ballot.

In Washington (not sure about the other two), your ballot comes with a security envelope and a mailing envelope. You’re supposed to put the ballot inside the security envelope, then put the security envelope inside the mailing envelope and seal it. However, if you forget the security envelope, your ballot will still be counted.

To verify that you voted, you’ll have to sign the outside envelope for your ballot. If you’re not able to sign (at least in WA), you can write an X and have two witnesses sign for you verifying that you are the person who filled the ballot out.

In any of these states, you can mail your ballot back through the U.S. Postal Service. If you do this, you’ll have to use a stamp, which costs about 50 cents.

If you don’t have a stamp or want to save the money, these states also have ballot drop-off locations. Usually, these are places like city or county government offices, libraries, post offices, etc. These places will have a designated ballot drop-off box where you can put your ballot for free, and it will be counted.

The county auditor in each state is responsible for overseeing elections, and their website will usually have a list of ballot drop box locations and other helpful information. Google “elections” and the name of your county or “county auditor” and the name of your county to find their site. If your area has a local newspaper, they may also have information about ballot drop locations on their website or Facebook page.

In Washington, your ballot needs to be postmarked by Election Day, which usually means you can put it in the mail the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 4 and it will be counted. (This is also why Washington elections are often undecided for a while after the actual election day - late ballots are still rolling in). If you’re using a ballot drop box, you can drop your ballot in the box up until 8 p.m. on election day.

In both Oregon and Colorado, your ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on election day. If you’re using a drop box, you can drop it off up until then. If you’re mailing it, you need to send it early enough that it will arrive by Election Day. Usually, the day before is enough time for this.

Election results are usually posted online shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m. Your county auditor will have information about every race on your ballot, including local bond measures, school board races and that sort of thing. Your state’s Secretary of State website should have results for statewide issues, including initiatives (if your state has them), Congressional races, governor, etc. Local newspapers and TV stations usually report live on Election Night and will have results available online as well. And I’m a big fan of the New York Times website for an overall look at what’s happening with Congressional races (eg. which party is likely to have control of the Senate at the end of the night).

cocksucking-accent said:

Today’s the first time I’ve voted in the States (I’m from Spain, have voted by mail for Spain before and have been with my parents when they voted in Spain in person when I was younger). Here are two things that I found VERY different in DC from Spain:

1) People sitting out in front of my voting place, still giving out election stuff and introducing themselves. I was able to avoid most of them because there was no line to get in, but I was still halted by a couple. This is actually illegal in Spain: you can only campaign up ‘til midnight of the day before election day, so people have time to think through things. This was very stressful! If there is no line, I suggest walking on the opposite sidewalk and only crossing once you’re at the entrance of your voting place. If you have to wait, something like “no thank you” or “I already know who I’m voting for” may work, but this might also encourage the campaigners to talk more. I definitely suggest, when you leave, to cross the street as soon as you can so you can get away.

2) They didn’t take my ID, or even glance at it when I took it out (even though I was nervous and took my ID AND passport). They asked me to spell out my last and first name, tell them my year of birth, and sign a screen - all things a stranger could have known - even though I hesitated on all questions because I was focusing on eye contact. This was particularly remarkable to me because I’m aware of voter ID laws and how busted they are, and I wonder if the reason they didn’t look at my ID is that I’m white.

What to expect on election day:

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

What’s the process of voting like when you go to your polling place?

realsocialskills said:

Generally it is something like this:

You go to your designated polling place. (Your polling place is assigned based on your address; in most states you have to go to that exact place and not another voting location.)

The polling place will likely be in either a school or a church.

At most times of day, there will be a long line. When you are done waiting in the line, you will check in. There will probably be a table staffed by election volunteers. They will check to make sure that you are on the list for that location. In some states, they will check your ID. They will then cross you off the list to prevent you from voting twice.

They will probably give you a small sticker with an American flag and the words “I voted”.

Once you are checked in, they will direct you to an available voting booth. The booth will have a curtain that you are supposed to close so that no one can see who you voted for.

Some people bring their children along to teach them about the importance of voting. It is considered acceptable to bring a child into the voting booth with you. It is not considered acceptable to bring along an adult, unless you have a disability and need physical assistance voting.

The exact process of voting depends on the state. Some states use various kinds of paper ballots. If your state uses paper ballots, you will mark your ballot in the booth and then bring it to a ballot box or ballot scanning machine. If your state uses voting machines, you will complete the voting process inside the booth.

Most ballots allow you to decide between voting a straight party ticket, or voting for individual candidates. If you vote the straight party ticket, that means you select the party you want to vote for, and automatically vote for all of their candidates. This is a good option if you know that you only want to vote for Democrats, or only want to vote for Republicans, and you’re worried that you might make a mistake in marking your ballot if you mark each candidate individually. (It’s generally not a useful option if you want to vote for third party candidates, since most of the races will only have Republican and Democratic candidates. It is likely to be a better idea to vote for your third party candidate in their race, then vote in all the other races for the candidates you prefer.)

You don’t have to vote in every race. For instance, if you only care who is running for Congress, you can leave the slots for mayor and school board blank.

Some states (eg: California) have ballot initiatives you can vote on. That means that the voters directly vote on some laws. Voting a straight party ticket doesn’t affect those issues one way or another; you vote on them individually.

Most counties have bond measures. That’s basically a vote on whether to raise taxes in order to fund something like a library or school expansion. Those are also things you vote on directly even if you voted the straight party ticket for candidates.

Campaigning isn’t allowed inside the polling place, or within a certain distance of the polling place. No campaigning means that no one is allowed to put up signs for candidates, or try to convince you to vote the way they want you to. At the polling place, they are required to leave you alone.

In practice, this means that campaigners will usually hang around as close to the polling places as it’s legal for them to be. There will probably be signs right at the border, and likely people in that area talking about candidates. It’s ok to talk to them if you want to; it’s also ok not to. They usually won’t be aggressive about bothering people; if they break the rules, they can be kicked out of the area.

When you leave the polling place (especially if you vote late in the day), there might be reporters (or high school civics students) hanging around nearby. They might ask you who you voted for. Reporters ask this because they want to predict who will win the election before the official results are announced.

The Voting Information Project can tell you where your polling place is and other information specific to your area.