What To Do if You're Turned Away From the Polls

While you may think it is (for crying out loud, the Christmas decorations have already started going up), spooky season isn’t quite over: Even if you have the legal right to vote and have done everything to prepare yourself for Election Day, you could still be turned away at the polls. Welcome to America’s scariest voting era.

Remember: you are most likely allowed to vote.

“If an individual declares that such individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote and that the individual is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office, but the name of the individual does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the individual is not eligible to vote, such individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot...”

§15482, CHAPTER 146, TITLE 42 OF THE 2009 UNITED STATES CODE

Recently, US states have implemented laws that impose new restrictions on voting. These restrictions can disproportionally affect minority voters, which in turn could sway voting patterns in favor of Republican candidates.

The implementation of stricter laws derives from a 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, an Act that required the approval of the Justice Department before states made any changes to their voting laws. This Act protected voting rights of minority populations and made it much more difficult to restrict voters at the polls.

In the last five years at least 23 states have placed restrictions on voting by closing polling places, cutting early voting, purging allegedly ineligible voters from electoral rolls and imposing stricter voter ID laws,

But no matter what unexpected issues you encounter at your polling place, there are ways to make sure your vote gets in safely.

If you are told you cannot vote:

  1. Ask poll workers to check systems for your name and information.
  2. Ask to sign an affidavit swearing your eligibility.
  3. Ask for a provisional ballot. (Follow up to make sure it was counted-your vote matters!)
  4. Report any incidents to the voter hotlines listed below.

What can you do? Before you vote: Check your registration, polling place, and make sure you have your legal ID.

Update your information: Some states have enacted tight procedures regarding voter information. These policies are rumored to curb voter fraud, but to some, it looks like an effort to suppress voters by calling upon irrelevant technicalities.

Report any an all incidents: If you experience any barriers to voting, stay calm and explain your rights and possible misunderstandings. Report any incidents of voter intimidation to state or local election hotlines or the Department of Justice.

Things to Remember:

  1. You can vote even if your registration is pending.
  2. You can cast a provisional ballot if your name was purged from the voting rolls.
  3. If you require assistance you are allowed to bring someone to help you vote.
  4. No one is allowed to stop you from exercising your right to legally vote.

Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE

Election Protection Hotline (Spanish): 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA

US Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline: 1-800-253-3931

Sources: 1, 2, 3