Last week, I posted OpEdNews' combination sneak preview of Count My Vote – A Citizen’s Guide to Voting and interview with its author, Steven Rosenfeld. This book aims to ensure that as many Americans as possible are able to vote this November. Here are excerpted suggestions for voters for some of most frequent potential issues. Please read it carefully. Refer to it as necessary and share it with everyone you know. This information is truly color- blind: neither Blue nor Red; it's intended for all Americans. It's in all of our best interest and the health of democracy itself for the maximum number of legal voters to be able to register and actually vote. (Getting those votes counted as cast - or counted at all - is another matter entirely, and not within the purview of this guide.)
Count My Vote Issues and Solutions
1. ISSUE: New statewide voter databases.
Voters whose names have changed as a result of marriage, divorce, or other reasons; whose names are hyphenated; or who have recently moved, cannot assume the new statewide voter lists have correctly included them. The same is true for people who have not voted in recent elections; they may have been purged from voter lists. The solution, no matter where you live, is to contact your local election office and verify your voter registration.
To do this, go this website (overseasvotefoundation.org) and use their “election official directory” to find out who to call in your locale. Verify your registration information is correct. If something is wrong, ask to fix it.
Voters should find out in advance what type of ID their state requires and bring it with them on Election Day. A healthy supply of patience may also come in handy, since voter hotlines during the primaries reported that some poll workers were unsure which IDs were acceptable and asked voters to wait while they checked.
3. ISSUE: Paperless electronic voting machines (DREs)
Voters can make sure their e-voting machines are working properly. The websites of many secretaries of state now have demos of voting machines so voters can get a visual preview of touch-screen voting. VerifiedVoting.org has a web-based tool that allows voters to identify the type of voting machines used in almost every county in the U.S., along with contact information for local election officials.
On Election Day, if you believe a machine is malfunctioning, you should stop and ask a poll worker for help before casting your ballot. If the problem persists, ask to use another machine. If you experience the same problem on a second DRE machine, ask to vote on a backup paper ballot, call a voter hotline for help (1-866-OUR-VOTE), and talk to a lawyer or trained staffer. You also can call the campaign office of the presidential candidate you support, since campaigns station observers in polling places. If your voting system has a VVPAT printer attached, you should verify that your vote is correctly recorded before submitting your ballot. Voters should use common sense and remember that voting is a right, not a privilege. Poll workers are there to help you—as long as they follow their state’s election laws.
4. ISSUE: Absentee ballot applications
Domestic registered voters must contact their county or state election office and request an absentee ballot. This can be done in person at county election offices or by mail. The Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network (nonprofitvote.org) allows people to click on their state and request absentee ballot applications. It also has instructions on how to submit those forms. Their website should be very useful for seniors. The OVF site’s directory of election officials has names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and mailing addresses. Applications may be available online at secretaries of state websites, and some states even attach them to sample ballots sent out before an election.
Hang on to the documents you use to register, or make copies, so come Election Day you have a folder of paperwork you can grab on your way to the polls. If you are among the few who run into database errors, missing registration information, incorrect voter purges, or any other obstacle—including political party volunteers challenging your registration—you will be prepared to prove that you are a legal, registered voter.
6. ISSUE: Long lines, confused poll workers