Election days can be thrilling, but also sometimes exasperating. How do you make sure your ballot counts? Do you need a photo ID
to vote? What do you do if you're not showing as registered when you get to your polling place? Who should you call if something seems fishy? And who on earth are all of these judges and do we retain them or what?
In an effort to help you (and ourselves) on Tuesday, we’ve built a collection of tips and suggestions to help your voting experience go smoothly.
Much of our info comes from talking to Denise Lieberman, the co-director of the Power and Democracy Program at Advancement Project
’s national office and Coordinator of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. This non-partisan effort in Missouri, organized by Advancement Project National Office, is part of the largest election protection program in the U.S. It runs the Election Protection Hotline, which is at your disposal at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). More than 500 lawyers are at a command center to assist you — and no concern, Lieberman stresses, is too small.
Beyond that, here are some frequently encountered problems — and what to do if they happen to you:
- Not sure if you're registered — or where to go? Your first step is the secretary of state's online check. If they have you, you should be golden. If not, get on that for next time around already.
- If you're a registered voter, but your name isn’t showing on the roll at your polling place, it’s probably because there is a typo in your name or address. Lieberman says this is “probably the No. 1 call they get to the election protection hotline” and it is usually easily remedied. A poll worker at your location should be able to call the election board, and they should be able to pull up your information and get everything corrected on the spot so you can vote a regular ballot.
- If you're not on the rolls, it might be because you have moved or your polling place has moved. A poll worker should call the election board, find out where you should be voting, and direct you to the new voting location. You need to go there. Lieberman stresses: “A vote cast in the wrong polling place will not count.” Requesting a provisional ballot shouldn’t be your go-to move if something goes wrong, but an option of last resort. Because votes cast in the wrong location get dropped, Lieberman says that up to one-third of provisional ballots cast in Missouri end up not being counted.
- Poll worker can't fix your issue? Call 866-OUR-VOTE and let the lawyers take it from there. If there is a real problem, they will send an attorney to your location to advocate for you.
- The 866-OUR-VOTE hotline can be helpful before election day, too. They can tell you if you are registered and also if you are headed to the correct polling location. You can even ask these questions via a text that says “OUR VOTE” to 97779; an attorney will text you back with your requested information.
- Don't have a driver's license? That's OK! A (very) recent judge's ruling clarified that photo ID is not necessary, though you do need some form of identification. Acceptable forms include a U.S. passport, U.S. military ID, a Missouri college ID, a utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck or any government document showing your name and address. You will not have to file a sworn statement or cast a provisional ballot. If they try to make you do either, call 866-OUR-VOTE.
- Experience a glitch or problem with electronic voting machines? Notify a poll worker and call 866-OUR-VOTE immediately. Lieberman says, “The machines in St. Louis city and St. Louis County are over fifteen years old and they do sometimes have problems calibrating correctly. If that happens, here’s what should happen at the polling place: the poll worker is supposed to take that machine out of service immediately. And then turn it off, turn it back on and re-calibrate it.” (Or, you can use a paper ballot to avoid all of this.)
- Having trouble getting time to vote? In Missouri your employer must give you three (paid) hours off work to vote. But the employer can decide which three hours and you must provide them notice of your intention to leave work to vote prior to Election Day. (So that would mean today. Call your boss now!)
- Not sure who to vote for? A bunch of websites out there will let you fill out a sample ballot so you’re not surprised by anything at your polling place. We like BallotReady.org for clarity and ease of use. With BallotReady, you can also print or email your sample ballot to yourself so you can pull it up on your smart phone, copy your answers onto your ballot and then get on out of there.
- And if you need more information on which judges to retain (always the most difficult part to research, in our opinion), check out YourMissouriJudges.org.
- If you are disabled and need assistance, assistance must be provided by the person of your choose. Can't make it inside? You may vote curbside. Remember, everyone at the voting location is there for you. It’s their job to make sure you can vote in the easiest and most efficient fashion.
- Get there too late? No problem. As long as you're in line at 7 p.m., they must let you vote.
- Suspect you've witnessed election fraud? In addition to hitting up the hotline, you can call the feds. The local FBI field office is at (314) 231-4325 or (314) 589-2563. Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws should be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington, D.C. by phone at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767, by fax at (202) 307-3961, by email to email@example.com or by complaint form.
Lieberman says her organization's goal is that “no voter leave a polling place without casting a ballot.” If you have an issue, speak up. Or just call the hotline and let them speak up for you.
Happy voting, friends!
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