Will it happen again? On November 7 we may see voters waiting in long lines, only to find they’re not on the voter rolls. We may see election workers struggling with malfunctioning machines. If you’re worried that we will wake up November 8 to find that, once again, election procedures in key races are in question, read on.
The staff at YES! Magazine has researched the recommendations of voting integrity advocates and offers 12 ways you can protect your own vote—and the fairness of the system. Please forward this checklist to others to help make our election system work.
BEFORE ELECTION DAY
1. Check your registration. Even if you think you're registered, you may not be. Check online at www.CanIVote.org. Or call your local election officials (find contact information at Overseas Vote Foundation).
2. Mail with care. If you’re voting by mail, check carefully where you need to sign, how to seal the envelope, and how to mark the ballot. And note: Some ballots weigh more than an ounce and require extra postage.
3. Find out who’s in charge. Make a phone list of your county and state election officials—it may save valuable time on Election Day if you need to get registration verification or other information.
ON ELECTION DAY
4. Vote early. If you encounter problems, you'll have time to sort them out and may be able to help others.
5. Take your government-issued ID (such as your driver's license). You may not need it, but it's best to have it.
6. Bring your cell phone, if you have one. If you have problems, or see problems, you can call a hotline immediately (see point #9).
7. Ask for a paper ballot. Some states, such as California, require polling places to have paper ballots available on request. If you don't want to use a machine, see if your polling place can provide a paper ballot. If machines aren't working or there are other problems, ask for an emergency ballot (although they may not be available everywhere).
8. Verify your vote. If you’re voting on an electronic voting machine, check the review screen to make sure it reflects your vote. If the machine produces a paper record (28 states require one), read it carefully to make sure it correctly reflects your vote. If it is incorrect, speak to a polling attendant—don’t leave until you’re sure your vote has been properly recorded.
9. Document and report. If you encounter difficulties, or see others experiencing difficulties (excessive lines, voter harassment, malfunctioning machines, etc.), make a detailed record. Get all the facts you can—location, names, specific problem.
We recommend two nationwide networks where you can report problems. One is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), which will have volunteer lawyers in 15 locations standing by to provide assistance. The other is 1-866 My Vote-1 (1-866-698-6831), which will record your problem by voicemail, then forward your call to your local board of elections. Both will enter the information you provide into a database to use to support challenges to problem elections now and demands for reform in the future.
AFTER ELECTION DAY
10. Call your candidate. If there are questions about an election result, urge your candidate not to concede early; encourage that person to follow through with all available challenges and recounts. Ask how you can help.
11. Call your election officials. Let your county and state election officials know that you have concerns about the election and will be monitoring their response. Ask them not to certify the election before all challenges and recounts are finished.
INTO THE FUTURE
12. Work for fair, transparent elections. Voice your questions about voting machines, vote suppression, and election problems promptly. Keep the issue in front of your election officials. If we want clean, trustworthy elections in 2008, we have to start working on it now.
Want more information? Here are three websites from the leading edge on voting issues.