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OUR VOTING RIGHTS - A State-by-State Analysis

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PRIVILEGE FROM ARREST AND EXCEPTIONS --  Imagine heading out to vote knowing you have outstanding parking tickets.  You show up to vote and notice a police presence out front.  Maybe they even appear to be talking to some voters. Do you try to walk past them to vote or do you turn around and play it safe?  

This is the predicament that the "privilege from arrest" is designed to resolve.  No one should see a police presence at polling sites. It can feel intimidating, especially for minorities who may not share a high level of trust in law enforcement.  Just 21 states guarantee that you can't be arrested for minor offenses when you come out to vote. A third of our citizens are covered by this protection.  

RIGHT TO ACCESSIBLE POLLING PLACES -  "polling places shall be easily accessible to all persons including disabled and elderly persons who are otherwise qualified to vote," says the New Hampshire State Constitution.  You might think the "Americans with Disabilities Act" covers this right, but voting doesn't always take place in buildings covered by the act.  More broadly speaking, a guaranteed access to polling places also means adequate numbers of voting machines and voting locations that people can get to easily.  This has been a particular problem in many "battle ground states" like  Florida where the lines to vote were huge in minority districts.  Only New Hampshire and Oklahoma provide this constitutional protection. 

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Brian Lynch is a retired social worker who worked in the areas of adult mental health and child protection for many years. His work brought him into direct contact with all the major social issues of the day and many of our basic social (more...)

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