Midterms 2018: Five things you should do to avoid being turned away at the polls

In most instances, voters still have right to cast provisional ballot

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Friday 02 November 2018 16:02 GMT
US Midterms 2018: The five big questions

With the US midterm elections just days away, some voters are worried about what will happen if they get turned away at their polling place.

At least 23 states in the last five years have enacted some sort of restrictive voting policies.

Georgia is enforcing an “exact match” policy on forms of identification, some require multiple forms of identification, others have not updated voter rolls with last-minute voter registrations, some have closed polling places but not updated voter rolls in the new consolidated polling places. In some places, poll workers are not well-versed on election rules.

Whatever the reason for possibly being turned away, there are options for voters to still cast ballots and have them counted.

Here are six things to do before you head to the polls on 6 November and if a poll worker turns you away:

Check your registration

State Boards of Elections maintain electronic records of voter rolls. Check your registration online and print out a copy of it before you get in line at the polling place.

Most states’ websites will require your full name, date of birth, the county in which you live, and five-digit zip code.

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This applies to those wanting to mail-in absentee ballots as well.

Be aware of the date! A full listing can be found here.

Most states’ registration deadlines have already passed, but some do offer same-day registration on Election Day like California, Idaho, Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois, Wisconsin, and others.

Both Maryland and North Carolina offer same-day registration but only on designated early voting days.

Check what kind of ID you need

Only 34 states actually require a form of ID to cast a ballot and some use a signature match. However, if you have an ID it is good to take it with you when you head to your polling place.

States which do require ID sometimes have specific rules on what kind you can use to vote. For instance, some states allow students to use a public university ID while others have said even a gun license can function as an ID.

Most though will take a standard driver’s license or state-issued photo card.

Make sure information is updated

Some states, like Georgia, have enacted an “exact match” policy on voters’ names. If you have a hyphenated name, were married or divorced since the last time you voted, or have a name which could be misspelled easily it is a good idea to check your information in your voter registration matches what is listed on your form of identification.

Sometimes human error happens as well, particularly in states where voter registrations are entered into systems manually.

Some have said the policy is a way to combat voter fraud, but in reality, the problem is greatly exaggerated.

There have been approximately 31 instances of voter impersonation over the last 1 billion ballots cast, according to a researcher at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California.

For now, it is a good idea to make sure your ID matches your registration.

Some states will allow for a different address listed on your ID than the one you have used to register, in case you have moved to a new district or polling place.

However, poll workers may or not be aware these do not have to match.

One way to combat this is to take a printout of that section of your states election law in case you have a doubt that may happen to you.

Know that you are allowed to cast a ballot per federal law

If you have been purged from the voting rolls or turned away due to an incorrect or missing ID, you still have the right to vote as a US citizen.

Some states may have voters sign a statement saying they do meet the requirements to vote in that state and allow them to cast a regular ballot.

In the instances this is not the case, you can still cast what is called a “provisional ballot”.

US Midterms 2018: The five big questions

According to US federal rules: “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…”

These ballots are usually not counted right away or only instances of a runoff election, so the voter has to follow up with the local Board of Election to make sure their registration has been verified and the vote counted.

Be persistent

There are instances of poll workers being improperly trained or just unaware of the nuances of election laws.

If you are certain you are eligible to vote, insist on a statement or affidavit to sign and/or request a provisional ballot.

If a poll worker is adamant about denying you the right to vote or questioning your eligibility in a manner that is making you uncomfortable, voters have the right to report the poll worker’s conduct.

This is what the ACLU calls “voter intimidation” and there are hotlines voters can call in order to report it nationally at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or the US Department of Justice’s Voting Rights hotline at 800-253-3931.

However, some states and civic groups also have state and local methods of reporting you should know about before heading to your polling place.

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