Election Day is upon us at last, gentle readers, and here’s our resource roundup for those who haven’t voted yet, from how to find information on ballot measures to how to get to the polls to what to do if you are harassed, intimidated, or encounter other problems at the polls. We encourage you to add your resources in the comments, and please tell us about your voting experience. Was this your first-ever election? Did you see something at the polling place that struck your eye?
In a high stakes presidential election, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot more to the ballot. If you’re not planning in voting in the presidential race (and we encourage you to reconsider!), or you live in a ‘safe’ state for one candidate or the other, there’s still a great deal you can do downticket. Especially on the West Coast, where it can feel futile to vote when the big race is practically called before polls close, but your vote matters. Your participation in statewide and local races can be critical — sometimes they’re decided by a very slim margin of votes, and they have a huge impact on your life. Your decisions in these races can launch (or torpedo) political careers and shape the landscape of your state — whether you’re voting slavery out of your state’s constitution, legalising medical and/or recreational marijuana, or supporting a higher minimum wage.
If you voted early and you want to ensure that your ballot was received, you can use your ballot stub to trace it. Many clerks and registrars of voters maintain a web portal for checking up on absentee ballots. If you can’t find it, you can call directly.
If you are an absentee voter and you haven’t turned your ballot in yet, call your clerk immediately to find out how to return it. Depending on your state, you may be able to drop it off at your precinct, any voting precinct or early voting location, and/or the clerk’s office, but know before you go. It’s possible your ballot will also be accepted if it’s postmarked today, but again, double check.
Getting to the polls
If you live in Philadelphia, you can take advantage of My Ride To Vote, which is offering free Uber and Lyft rides for voters (bring your friends!). Enter the code VOTEPA as a coupon for your free ride.
Carpool Vote is a nationwide, disability-friendly programme connecting drivers and voters who want to carpool to the polls together.
Your local party office may also be organizing rides, or may have a lead on local groups that are doing the same, from senior centers to social clubs. Contact them directly for more information.
Not sure where your polling place is? Here’s a polling place locator!
Worried about time off to vote and when you should go? Many states require employers to provide time off to vote, and you can find details here.
Feeling intimidated because there’s a lot on the ballot and you don’t know where to start? BallotPedia is an excellent nonpartisan resource with basic information on ballot measures, and Project VoteSmart provides candidate information.
Depending on your political inclinations, your party should have a list of local candidates and ballot measures they endorse, as do many, many organisations like the Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the League of Women Voters, and the NRA. (You’ll want to look up your state chapters for information on races and measures in your own state.)
Major newspapers in your state should also have rundowns and endorsements on candidates and ballot measures.
At the polling place
Here’s a list of nationwide polling place hours. As long as you arrive at the polls before they close, you have a right to vote, even if lines mean that you vote after closing time.
Know before you go: Here are the state laws on voter ID.
You have a right to cast your ballot in private. If you are disabled and need help from your aide or PA, they may legally accompany you into the voting booth to assist you. If a ballot is not available in your language or you have difficulty reading, you can bring a translator or reader with you.
You are allowed to bring research materials into the voting booth with you, if you want to bring a cheat cheat for ballot measures and local races.
You may not be allowed to take a photograph in the polling booth: Here’s a rundown on ballot selfie laws.
If you run into trouble or see someone in trouble
This quick rundown on voter intimidation provides you with a general overview of your rights. Widespread voter suppression tactics are being used this year, including stationing poll watchers and intimidating people outside polling places. Within the polling place, poll workers may innocently or maliciously interfere with your right to vote depending on their training, the situation, and who you are. You have the right to vote. You have the right to ensure that your voice is heard.
You are also allowed to provide other voters with information about their rights (you may not give them information about candidates or measures, or tell them how to vote). This includes escorting people to the polling place if they are being harassed or intimidated, and alerting them to options for reporting intimidation, including reporting it to polling place officials, the clerk or registrar of voters, police, and groups working to monitor voter intimidation practices. If you are white and live in an area where people of colour are likely to face voter intimidation, consider forming a small group to act as a buffer to protect voters of colour from harassment — that can be as simple as intervening when you see someone being harassed to say ‘Hi! I haven’t seen you in forever, I was just going in to vote, do you want to come with?’
If you run into problems at the polls, Election Protection is on the ground with hotlines in multiple languages. Their main hotline is 866.OUR.VOTE.
The US Department of Justice also maintains a voting rights hotline at 800.253.3931/877.267.8971 (TTY).
Photo: hjl/Creative Commons