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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Service Nation Day of Action Diary: Voter Registration

Can you feel the energy of service humming all around you? It might be the 2,720 + service projects happening across the 50 states today! Find one here!

I’m registering voters in my neighborhood in North Portland with a coalition of organizations including the Bus Project, NAACP, Urban League and AmeriCorps Alums Oregon.

Follow BeTheChangeInc on Twitter for more news as it happens at the Boston Day of Action event.

Register so you can vote on Nov. 4th!

Read Alan Khazei’s opinion piece in the Huffington Post on service.

Read the fabulous Kate Doyle’s Day of Action News Roundup.

What I learned from my volunteer experience: Registering voters is hard! I didn’t go door to door but stayed in the “downtown” areas of my neighborhood and that may have had an impact — I met a woman who registered far more people by going door-to-door. As with any state you have to get your registration in by a certain date, too — see the list of deadlines around the country.

Updating your registration after you move is crucial. In Oregon, for example, everyone votes by mail. (Your ballot won’t get to you if your address isn’t updated.)

Throughout the United States, under-represented on election day are people who are more mobile — like young people and people who rent apartments. The state of Ohio sparked controversy this summer when the media circulated a story that people who had lost their homes because of foreclosure would be ineligible to vote this fall due to change of address.

The Pew Center on the States puts it this way: “Participation data reveal clear patterns about who is most likely to vote and who isn’t. If you are old, white, educated and strongly rooted in your community, you are more likely to vote. If you are young, non-white, less educated and move frequently, you are less likely to vote.”

Another obstacle to 100 percent voter turnout can be requiring identification at the polling station, which apparently disenfranchise specific populations more than others.

Some tips I learned for registering voters include:

  • Familiarize yourself with the registration form for your state
  • Find out the registration deadline for your state
  • Know whether you can register others to vote in your state, and the deadline for turning in the registration forms you gather
  • Know who is eligible to vote in your state (what age?; also what about formerly incarcerated people?)
  • Pick a place with lots of foot traffic (you may have to ask permission)
  • Have a few clip boards and pens on hand
  • Approach groups (the voters among them can help pressure the nonvoters)
  • Stay nonpartisan
  • Ask everyone you see (don’t presume to know who is already registered by they way they dress, or by age), be friendly
  • Start by saying something like I’m registering voters today so they know you don’t need signatures on a petition

Here are some other tips for registering others to vote.

Join The League of Women Voters’ Registration Challenge. (You don’t have to be a woman.)