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.