I'm not much for providing practical information here unless splenic venting is suddenly practical. That said, my research on voter turnout requires me to keep up with changes in the processes of registration and voting, so it seemed worth the time to put together a short guide to ways that They are trying to make voting more difficult and what you can do about them. I can't lie: following these steps will take about five minutes of your time. I can't make it any easier than that, because registration and voting rules vary by state and I can't (OK, don't want to) type out the rules for every state in the union right here. Meet me halfway?

As a foreword, regardless of what ID requirements exist in your state, bring a valid photo ID with you – a passport, driver's license, State ID, or equivalent. This will be your best asset in any attempt to challenge your identity or residency. If you're a US citizen and reading this, my guess is you have one of these.

Now, onto the specifics:

1. Issue: You are not registered properly. Have you moved since the last time you voted? Has your state passed a totally not-racist law that kicks voters off the rolls if their name in the state system is not an exact match for the Social Security database? That's right, in some states like Georgia voters are being purged now if one database says, for example, "Jose" and the other says "José". Do you have a "hard" name, especially one that is hard for old white people? Do you sometimes go by Denise Hall-Smith and sometimes as Denise Hall? If any such conditions apply, it is worth it to double-check.
What to do about it: Contact your state board of elections now to verify your registration. Google your state board. The website may have a tool that allows you to search and verify your registration, but most SBOE websites are intentionally difficult to use. Canivote.org directs you to the relevant website in your state. If a phone call is necessary, call. If you have not yet registered, deadlines for most states occur within the next 10 days. Do it now. The NAACP offers this print-and-mail form, but most state websites have an easier process in place now.

2. Issue: Long lines. In some jurisdictions – I'll let you guess which ones – underproviding voting equipment and reducing the number of polling places is a passive-aggressive tactic to reduce turnout. People see a line out the door and get back in the car. In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, the March 2016 primaries saw only one polling station per 20,000 voters (one per 1000 is considered average).
What to do about it: Two things. One, vote before Election Day. Two, if you cast an in-person Election Day vote (EDV), go in the morning if at all humanly possible. Every state now offers some kind of alternatives to in-person EDV. Does your state offer no questions asked absentee ballots? Request one now. Is early voting at a central location, usually your county courthouse, offered? If so, what dates? Are "Voting Centers" (as in New Mexico) available throughout your city, and if so, can you plan to visit one in a less crowded area? As far as voting on Election Day, polling places are like airports; the problems accumulate throughout the day and eventually choke the system to a halt. Just like that 6 AM flight is most likely to depart O'Hare on time, your vote at 8 AM is much, much less likely to encounter delays than a 6:30 PM vote. If your personal situation permits, vote early.

3. Issue: You don't know where to vote. Polling places are moved, and not infrequently. You may know where you voted in 2012 and 2014; is that the same place to vote in 2016?
What to do about it: Both your state's website and national databases like this one will show you the correct voting location for your registered address. In most states you must vote at this location. If your state uses "Voting Centers" you may have options, but assume that the polling place for your specific address is where you must plan on voting.

4. Issue: Someone tries to stop you from voting. This is 100% clear. Whether "poll watchers" are with an organized group or self-appointed vigilantes, no individual can prevent you from being able to vote. Being prepared to verify your identity and registration status is a good idea.
What to do about it: If someone challenges you, DO NOT LEAVE. Remain calm. You do not have to follow any orders that do not come from a law enforcement officer or a properly credentialed state or county election official. If available, use your phone to take pics or video of the person interfering with your rights. Provide ID documents to properly credentialed election officials. Call 866-OUR-VOTE and speak with an attorney for free to receive advice and report voter intimidation. Do. Not. Leave. Repeat firmly and calmly to properly credentialed election officials that you are entitled to a ballot until you are done voting.

5. Issue: OK, you screwed up. Now what? Sometimes people with good intentions do something wrong. Maybe you go to the wrong polling place or you got dropped from the registered voting rolls for some technical reason without your knowledge. Don't give up just because you are informed that something has gone wrong.
What to do about it: request a provisional ballot and instructions on how to fix whatever registration issue exists. This varies by state, but in most states you can cast a ballot that will not be counted until you have fixed your issue. Doing so often requires only some easy steps like signing an affidavit certifying that you are who you claim to be. If you visit the wrong polling place, a provisional ballot can be sent to your correct precinct after Election Day in most states. Do not be aggressive; you may be the one who made an innocent mistake here. The poll workers are volunteers following a set of rules. They should be prepared for the procedure of issuing a provisional ballot. If they are not, insist on speaking to someone who can. Call your state board of elections if necessary.

So, in summary, to ensure that none of the many efforts to trip citizens up in their efforts to vote are effective against you, do the following today. Not soon, not next week, but today.

1. Confirm your proper registration and polling place location.
2. Investigate alternatives – Can you vote early? Get an absentee ballot? Vote at a location other than your polling place?
3. Plan ahead. If you must vote on Election Day, go early in the morning rather than after work if at all possible. Confirm your polling hours, which vary by state.
4. Bring photo ID and phone numbers to report problems. 866-OUR-VOTE, the local chapter of the ACLU, the Justice Department voting hotline, and your state/county Boards of Election can all help in an emergency. Expect them to be very busy on Election Day.
5. Report any malfeasance you witness to one of these resources.
6. Help others if you see them being challenged.

You will spend 30 minutes watching Netflix and YouTube videos today. You certainly can devote a few of those minutes to following these simple steps to ensure that nothing stands between you and voting.


  • Skepticalist says:

    Be sickeningly sweet with people you need to deal with behind a table or counter. I know this is hard for younger types. The same goes for talking over the phone to "helpful" people in Calcutta. Grind your teeth but let no one know it. Get drunk later.

    People stink

  • As a poll worker in PA, I am terrified of Trump's call for "watchers". It is still not clear who is allowed to make a challenge, or on what basis. (And this is my twentieth election, with training!). Each challenge can take up to an hour or more of time. You need at least two officials to run the voting and there are only four officials, usually three.

    Last time a single Trump loonie caused a major disruption by not following the "no politicking within twenty-five feet rule.". If we get three of these idiots, no one will be able to vote… Advantage Trump in this case.

    PS each worker is paid about $110 for an 18-19 hour day. Plus we have to listen to crap about how many people are voting ten times in my precinct. (This is where we can count the number of strangers with one hand… And we remember what they look like. Hell, we even remember who has not voted yet.)

  • Also…isn't it federal law that employers are to provide 2 hours of time off to any employee on Election Day so they may vote? Or is that an urban legend?

  • The Clinton campaign and the DNC have this handy website to get everyone registered and/or check on their registration. Of course, you will also be offered the opportunity to get Hillary's e-mail updates and/or donate, but it still makes everything really easy. Iwillvote.com

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    As an ex-Chicagoan: probably not for another 100 years.

    7. You are an anarchist or "principled non-voter." Write in Noam Chomsky for Comptroller and get over yourself. Or we'll find out together how legitimate The System is when the worst people on earth are in charge.

  • I'm almost sorry I vote by mail, because I'm in a county that will probably go 75% Drumpf, and I'd kinda like to mix it up with the first one of these fuckin' yahoos that tries to electioneer me outside the polling place. I've dropped people for less, and I've had it up to here with these goddamned bozos.

  • Here in Oregon having both properly and thoroughly identified ourselves months if not years ago our ballots are delivered to our homes, and not only do we have a couple of weeks to return them in double super secret signature bar coded envelopes but the choice to either entrust them with the US Postal Service or hand deliver them to a ballot box down at the County Clerk's office. I choose the later, the day I recieve it, and dare, Heyward, anyone to try and stop me. I too have dropped yahoos for less.

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    Washington state. Vote-by-mail. Before it was enacted, I voted absentee. You didn't even have to be absentee; you could just be lazy and they'd mail you a ballot anyway. I haven't stepped foot inside a polling place since 1994.

  • Marcia Crump says:

    Thank you. I moved recently and supposedly my voter registration was updated via the DMV when I changed my address there, but haven't received my voting materials yet. I checked my registration with the state elections board. Apparently the DMV change did not go through. Much appreciated.

  • Thanks, Ed! Clear, concise, useful. In a well-run country, this would be posted everywhere and be the wallpaper on everybody's social media for the next two weeks.

    (Minor point: I think the word you want is "splenetic." Splenic venting would be the actual spleen, in a medical and messy event.)

  • The only thing about voting at home – if the female wants to vote for Ms Clinton, but her husband feels that Trump is the only viable choice, and is or had been an abuser, that's a bad thing.

    On her death bed, my Republican-for-life mom confessed to me. "Don't tell your dad, I've cancelled his presidential vote the last 8 years. I can't vote for a Republican any more, the anti-choice thing." She was on her death-bed in their bedroom where dad was caring for her. I'm pretty sure she lost someone close, a friend or cousin, back when abortions were not treatable health crises back when she was a young woman in the 1940s.

    Dad's care kept her alive for 5 years after her doctors gave her 9 months, and she died in his arms at 5 am one fine October morning in 1997. They honeymooned in Havana in the late 1940s, they loved to dance.

    But this love-story isn't how it is for everyone. Voting at the precinct is private, filling out a ballot at the kitchen table is not. Some people want that opportunity to do it privately.

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