Protect Your Clients’s Right to Vote and Your Own

Are you or your organization’s clients at higher risk for being challenged at the polling station November 4th? (See the end of this post for a list of people who are more likely disenfranchised.)

If so, you and they should be prepared. Election Protection offers a state-by-state run down of election policies and laws. They also encourage you to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for legal support if you find yourself being challenged at the polling station.

Investigative journalist Greg Palast and Bobby Kennedy, Jr., have recently published a comic book called Steal Back Your Vote to educate voters about what to do in case their right to vote is challenged on Election Day. (Note: the comic book may be nonpartisan but not all of its sponsors are.)

They offer these tips:

  1. If you can avoid it, don’t mail in your ballot because mail-in ballots are more likely to be discounted and may even arrive too late to cast by election day. (In Oregon, all ballots are mail-in which actually seems to solve problems other states have faced in terms of presenting photo ID, lacking sufficient voting machines to accommodate all voters, etc.) If you are a Peace Corps Volunteer, Military service member, or other U.S. citizen living abroad, you have the right to vote absentee or through a “back-up ballot.”
  2. Vote early so that if your vote is challenged, you have time to correct the problem. According to Palast and Kennedy, “Every state now lets voters cast ballots in designated polling stations and at county offices in the weeks before Election Day.”
  3. Check your registration status. And help register others to vote.
  4. Instead of accepting a provisional ballot at the polling station, “demand adjudication from poll judges on the spot; demand a call to the supervisor of elections; or return with acceptable ID if possible.” Also, defend the rights of others as a poll watcher. (You can also volunteer to work the polls. If you have legal training, you can volunteer to protect voters at the polls.) Call Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE if you run into trouble. Provisional ballots, according to the comic book authors, are too often thrown out.
  5. Take action by registering people to vote and volunteering.
  6. Go to the polling station in a group which may empower you to stand up for your right to cast a ballot.

People most likely to be disenfranchised include the following (many which could describe term of service participants and their clients):

  • Renters/people who move around more often
  • People with low incomes
  • People of color
  • People who don’t drive and therefore don’t have a government-issued ID card
  • Elderly people, people with disabilities, people who are living abroad, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day
  • People who haven’t voted in awhile
  • People who are voting for the first time

Am I missing any? Leave a comment and I will update.

Also read about permitted contact between 501(c)(3) organizations and partisan contact in voter protection.

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