Election Protection: Know Your Rights, What to Do if They’re Violated

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Tomorrow is Election Day. Because there has been so much said about voter intimidation and suppression efforts, we wanted to make sure everyone was aware of their rights as voters in the state of Pennsylvania, and what to do if those rights are violated.

Voting and elections advocates suggest that you have a plan before heading to the polls. To ensure you’re registered, confirm your polling place and view other election-related information, feel free to check out the Election Protection website, which has tons of valuable info and resources.

Now let’s tackle what rights you have when you go to cast your ballot. Here is information published recently by Gov. Tom Wolf:

Voters have a right to assistance when voting.
  • You have the right to assistance at the polling place, including foreign language or literacy assistance. You may select any person to assist you as long as the person is not your employer or union representative or the Judge of Elections.
  • Voters do not need to be designated in the poll book as “assistance permitted” to receive help. A person who wants assistance will be asked to sign an Assistance Declaration at the precinct, unless the poll book already indicates “assistance permitted.”
Only first time voters in precincts must show identification (ID).
  • Voters voting for the first time in their precinct must show ID. The ID can be photo or non-photo ID. This is the only time ID is required.
  • Pennsylvania’s strict photo ID law for all voters is no longer in effect for voting at the polls. Unless you are voting for the first time in your precinct, poll workers should not ask you for photo ID, and you will NOT need to present ID to vote in the 2016 Primary or General Election.
  • If you are voting for the first time in your precinct, and you show a non-photo ID, it must contain your name and address. The only other voters who need to show ID are those who may need to verify that their address is correct.
A voter whose name is not in the poll book can still vote.
  • When you go to your polling place to vote but your name does not appear in the poll book or supplemental poll book, you can still vote. The local officials should place a call to the county board of elections to confirm your registration. The board of elections can determine whether you are registered and in the correct precinct.
  • If you are registered but you are in the wrong precinct, you will be directed to the correct precinct. If the board of elections cannot find your name in its voter registration database, or if you are unable to go to another precinct, you are entitled to use a provisional ballot. If you vote by provisional ballot, the Judge of Elections will give you a receipt with your provisional ballot number.
  • You can find out if your provisional ballot was counted by visiting pavoterservices.state.pa.us or by calling 1-877-868-3772.

There’s a contingency for non-operational voting machines:

  • When 50% or more of the voting machines are not working in your polling place, you have the right to vote by emergency paper ballot.If 50% or more of the voting machines in your polling place are out of service, voters are entitled to vote by emergency paper ballot. Poll workers should immediately offer the ballots, but if they do not, voters should request one instead of leaving without voting.
  • The paper ballots used as emergency ballots must be clearly identified and placed in the envelope marked “emergency ballot” and not in the provisional ballot envelope.

Next up: What do you do if your voting rights are violated, or someone attempts to impede your ability to cast your ballot. The first line of defense is always your polling location’s judge of elections. Please know, though, that thousands of volunteers for several non-partisan nonprofit organizations are mobilizing volunteers to help ensure voter protection. Part of that initiative is a toll-free number voters can call if they have an issue at the polls. Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE if you run into a problem.

Voters have a right to assistance when voting.
  • You have the right to assistance at the polling place, including foreign language or literacy assistance. You may select any person to assist you as long as the person is not your employer or union representative or the Judge of Elections.
  • Voters do not need to be designated in the poll book as “assistance permitted” to receive help. A person who wants assistance will be asked to sign an Assistance Declaration at the precinct, unless the poll book already indicates “assistance permitted.”
Only first time voters in precincts must show identification (ID).
  • Voters voting for the first time in their precinct must show ID. The ID can be photo or non-photo ID. This is the only time ID is required.
  • Pennsylvania’s strict photo ID law for all voters is no longer in effect for voting at the polls. Unless you are voting for the first time in your precinct, poll workers should not ask you for photo ID, and you will NOT need to present ID to vote in the 2016 Primary or General Election.
  • If you are voting for the first time in your precinct, and you show a non-photo ID, it must contain your name and address. The only other voters who need to show ID are those who may need to verify that their address is correct.
A voter whose name is not in the poll book can still vote.
  • When you go to your polling place to vote but your name does not appear in the poll book or supplemental poll book, you can still vote. The local officials should place a call to the county board of elections to confirm your registration. The board of elections can determine whether you are registered and in the correct precinct.
  • If you are registered but you are in the wrong precinct, you will be directed to the correct precinct. If the board of elections cannot find your name in its voter registration database, or if you are unable to go to another precinct, you are entitled to use a provisional ballot. If you vote by provisional ballot, the Judge of Elections will give you a receipt with your provisional ballot number.
  • You can find out if your provisional ballot was counted by visiting pavoterservices.state.pa.us or by calling 1-877-868-3772.
When 50% or more of the voting machines are not working in your polling place, you have the right to vote by emergency paper ballot.
  • If 50% or more of the voting machines in your polling place are out of service, voters are entitled to vote by emergency paper ballot. Poll workers should immediately offer the ballots, but if they do not, voters should request one instead of leaving without voting.
  • The paper ballots used as emergency ballots must be clearly identified and placed in the envelope marked “emergency ballot” and not in the provisional ballot envelope.

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