Friday, October 29, 2004
Know your rights when you go to the polls tomorrow:
1) Go vote tomorrow. You can find out where your precinct is at MyPollingPlace.com or call 1-800-OUR-VOTE (1-800-687-8683) or 1-866-MYVOTE1. You can also find out polling information (times, places, procedures) at the official elections site for your state here -- it may take a little digging.
[UPDATE: MyPollingplace.com is experiencing heavy traffic, so your best bet may be the 1-800 number or the elections website for your state (the second link above).]
2) Especially if you are a first time voter, bring some identification with you.
3) Polling times vary. See here for the official elections website for your state, which should provide polling times. As long as you are in line by the time polls close, you have the right to cast your vote, no matter how long it takes.
4) You have the right to request a new ballot if you make a mistake.
5) You have the right to ask questions. If you do not understand how the voting equipment works, just ask one of the poll workers.
6) If you are not listed as registered in your precinct, you have a right to cast a provisional ballot and should do so. However, because some uncertainty exists as to how and whether provisional ballots will be counted, if you believe you are registered and are at the right precinct, you should encourage polling workers to do everything they can to verify that you are not on their version of the voter rolls before filling out a provisional ballot.
7) You have the right to cast an absentee ballot at any polling station in the county in which you are registered. If you not yet sent in your absentee ballot, most elections officials are advising that it is too late to mail it in. Instead, take it to any polling place in your county of registration.
8) If your right to vote is unfairly challenged, call 1-800-OUR VOTE or 1-866-MYVOTE1.
For those Americans who did not vote early and did not cast an absentee ballot, tomorrow is Election Day. Despite the divisive controversy of the 2000 election results, despite the two years of Congressional scrutiny and analysis of problems with our elections processes which resulted in the Help America Vote Act, despite our country's vast wealth and resources, despite more than 200 years of republican democracy, despite the fact that we are trying to export democracy around the world, the United States is not adequately prepared for tomorrow's election. It boggles the mind.
National: Elections officials are reporting a shortage of 500,000 poll workers for Tuesday's elections, caused in part by the large increase in registered voters. Fewer poll workers mean longer lines and slower voting, which mean increased voter frustration and decreased turnout. Early voters in Florida are already waiting in line for hours to vote, as are early voters in Colorado.
As it is apparently too much to ask of our elected officials that they anticipate such problems, it devolves upon us as American citizens to volunteer to be polling place workers. It is too late to get the necessary training in time to be a polling worker for this election, but start thinking about helping your country out for next time.
More National: Lawyers for Republicans and Democrats continued to wage war across the battleground states. Republicans have challenged thousands of voter registrations in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, and Ohio; Democrats have countered that Republicans are engaged in voter suppression and intimidation. Neither party seems to be saying much about the possibility of universal registration, which would help to resolve much of this particular mess.
Missouri: Voting monitors from the Republican and Democratic parties will be stationed primarily in black neighborhoods in St. Louis. Republicans say that they are trying to prevent voter fraud; Democrats say that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote.
Ohio: Two federal judges have ruled that the Republican and Democratic parties may NOT put challengers inside the polling places in the state.
All the GOP challenges to voter registrations in Delaware County have been thrown out due to a lack of evidence. All GOP challenges in Summit County have also been tossed.
Oregon: Attorneys for the Oregon Republican Party demanded that officials set aside ballots cast by new voters in Multnomah County who have not provided proof of identification. According to a letter from one of the GOP lawyers:
Utah: Brice Derek Carsno, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives, challenged the legal registration of 1,495 other residents in House District 37. None of the challenged voters were registered Republicans. State elections director Amy Naccarato said that Carsno abused the statute which allows any voter to challenge any other voter because the statute requires that the challenge must include the basis for that challenge. Carsno included none.
In the event we cannot reach agreement on this matter, our client's only option
will be to challenge each and every ballot cast in which a voter's identity --
and qualifications -- are still in question.
If Carsno had been successful in his challenge, all 1,495 voters would have had to cast provisional ballots, which are not guaranteed to be counted. If his actions are found to raise to the level of voter intimidation, Carsno may be found guilty of the Class B misdemeanor voter intimidation.
Wisconsin: GOP and Milwaukee elections officials reached agreement over how to deal with over 5,000 recent voter registrations challenged by the GOP. A list of the 5,000 voters will be distributed to polling places across the city, where these 5,000 voters will be asked to demonstrate proof of residency at their registered address. If voters cannot show proof of residency at their registered address, they will be asked to swear an oath that they do. All the ballots for which this oath is required will be marked as challenged by the poll worker.
More information and stories about voting and elections from around the nation.
Polling place locations: http://www.mypollingplace.com/find.php or call 1-800-OUR-VOTE (1-800-687-8683).
National: In Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, the Bush Administration argued last week that voters do not have the right to sue to enforce the voting rights in the Help America Vote Act, only the Justice Department does. Courts in all three states rejected the argument. Contrary to the efforts to limit jurisdiction to the Justice Department, Supreme Court and Justice Department precedent has allowed outside groups and citizens to bring suits to enforce voting rights for over forty years.
California: As Ian Hoffman of the Tri-Valley Herald writes, many California voters who registered close to the October 18 deadline will likely have to cast a provisional ballot on November 2 because their registration has not yet been processed.
Florida: Republicans and Democrats are accusing each other of intimidating early voters, especially Haitian-American voters.
Iowa: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver told county officials not to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct. The latest instructions reflect a switch from last Friday, when Miller issued an opinion saying Iowans who vote in the correct county but wrong precinct should have their votes for president and Congress count.
Voters can and should still cast provisional ballots even if in the wrong precinct, according to Miller. These ballots will be assessed later by a special precinct board two days after the election. Such ballots will be rejected in Iowa if the voter also cast an absentee ballot, is not properly registered to vote, also voted at the polls, or is not qualified to vote because the person is not 18, not a U.S. citizen, mentally incompetent or a convicted felon.
Ohio: Yesterday, a federal judge prohibited six county elections boards from considering the Republican challenges thousands of recent voter registrations. The Republicans are appealing, but due to notice requirements to challenged voters, it is doubtful the challenges can be heard before the election even if the ruling is overturned.
In Summit County, not one of the six barred from considering challenges, dozens of voters turned up at the elections board to defend their right to vote. The board dismissed some 1,000 challenges. In Lake County, the board dismissed all but around 100 challenges.
Also, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown stepped down as one of the Democratic electors in Ohio due to the Constitutional ban on elected officials serving as electors. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution reads in part: " . . . but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector." Seems like someone in the Ohio Democratic Party might have found the time to take a look at the Constitutional requirements for electors.