Concerns Abound Over Voting Access — Here's a Simple Guide to Knowing Your Rights
There are many concerns — some involving lawsuits and last-minute rulings by judges — about voting as we head into Tuesday's elections
Brian Kemp, the Georgia Republican secretary of state whose office oversees elections, and who is running for governor, announced Sunday — without evidence — that his office is investigating Democrats for allegedly hacking the state’s voter registration system.
His opponent, Stacey Abrams, the first black female to run for governor in the state, told The Atlanta Journal- Constitution that Kemp’s intention is “to distract voters with a desperate ploy.”
This controversy is the latest example of a surge of concerns, many involving lawsuits and last-minute rulings by judges, about voting as we head into Tuesday’s midterm elections — concerns primarily stemming from a number of restrictive voting laws enacted in recent years by Republican-led state legislatures across the country.
A number of nonpartisan nonprofits, such as Common Cause and the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, have created the hotline 866-OUR-VOTE for any questions or problems that may arise on election say.
And there may be many, voting rights groups warn.
In Georgia, Abrams, as well as election law experts and activists, claim that Kemp’s policies have been used to disqualify voters, especially minorities who tend to vote Democratic.
There’s been Georgia’s closing of voting locations, the removal of inactive voters from registration rolls, the rejection of absentee ballots and the carrying out of an “exact match” spelling law passed last year that the Associated Press revealed put almost 50,000 new voter registrations on hold — with 70 percent of those voters African-Americans.
In North Dakota, a court declined to overrule a strict new voter ID law requiring everyone who votes to show a state or Native American tribe-issued ID with a street address — despite some 35 percent of Native Americans only having a post office box as their only address, reports ABC News. (And it was the Native American vote which helped propel Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat running for re-election, to a close win in 2012.)
In Kansas, election officials closed the only polling place in Dodge City and moved it outside city limits, triggering a handful of lawsuits. When a judge ruled that county clerk Debbie Cox did not have to open another site in Dodge City, she reacted to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union concerning the issue by forwarding it to another official along with the comment “LOL,” Kansas.com reports.
According to New York University’s nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, restrictive, harsh laws passed since 2010 in 24 states have made it harder to vote; in nine of those states, it’s harder to vote now than in 2016.
Faulty voting machines are also a concern. Some of Texas’ early voters have reported that they tried to vote for a straight Democratic line, but the voting machine switched votes to the Republican Senate incumbent, Ted Cruz. “The main thing isn’t why it’s happening — if it’s malice, malfunctioning or poor design,” Leah McElrath told The Washington Post. “It just needs to stop.”
Below is a guide to help make sure your vote is counted on election day. Also check out Vote.org’s comprehensive guide of potential problems, their solutions, and places to turn for help.
If you have any questions, concerns of complaints, call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (or 866-687-8683).
CHECK IF YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE
Inactive voters have been kicked off the rolls in states including Georgia, Nevada, Indiana and Wisconsin (voting rights activists call this “purging”). In Ohio, a federal appeals court ruled that the state must give voters purged from its rolls the ability to vote via provisional ballots.
Click here to find out if you are registered.
Not yet registered? Some states allow for registration up to and including election day, such as Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
FIND OUT WHERE YOUR POLLING PLACE IS LOCATED
If there is a long line at your polling place, and it gets late, stay in line because legally you must be allowed to cast your ballot.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR PROPER VOTER ID
There are a vast array of voter identification requirements and voter ID laws, differing from state to state. The National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled a comprehensive list of voter ID laws.
If you are turned away due to improper ID, some states, including Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Tennessee, may allow you to vote by signing something under oath, according to Vote.org.
WHERE TO TURN FOR HELP
If you have any issues at the polls, or your ballot is challenged, call the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
The government watchdog group Common Cause is monitoring voting questions and issues around the country, and urges people to call its nonpartisan hotline with concerns.