New resources for 2012 are available, so please read this updated article. There have been significant changes since 2008.
Do this NOW:
- Download and print: 7 Ways to Beat the Ballot Bandits by Greg Palast. You can download the pdf for free. Please make a donation if you can.
Why you should do it:
Enough votes were blocked, thrown away or ignored in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections to have made a difference in the outcomes. Most of us remember Florida and the “hanging chad” debacle, but most people don’t know how many votes were thrown out or not counted in 2004.
The truth is millions of votes were not counted and millions of people’s civil rights were violated. To protect our democracy we must protect our right to vote. That includes making sure every legally registered voter’s vote is counted.
This is especially important now since so many states have attempted to implement illegal voting laws. Most, if not all, of the laws were blocked, but State Secretaries of State are doing as little as possible to inform voters that the new laws don’t apply. Allowing people to believe they can’t vote results in the same disfranchisement as if the laws were in place.
It does not matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent or have another party affiliation. Your vote can be discounted or thrown in the trash for nonsensical reasons that are technically legal.
If you are poor, don’t have a drivers’ license or other state-issued or federal-issued ID, are elderly, in the military, or a minority, your right to vote may be challenged at your precinct on election day far more often than a middle to upper class white voter. If you are a legally registered voter, this is a violation of your civil rights.
If you are in the military and have to vote absentee, your vote may not be counted if mailed in. Make sure you do everything you can to get your vote in through the proper channels as early as possible.
You may be required to include a photocopy of your military ID card with your absentee ballot. Get it copied and include it. Follow all instructions to the letter.
Vote early in person if you can. Have a family member or friend hand-deliver your ballot envelope to the absentee polling place if you can’t.
Avoid problems, get a state-issued picture ID card. You may need to acquire an accepted picture ID card prior to voting. You can usually get one free of charge at your local department of motor vehicles even if you don’t drive. They will issue you an ID only license.
You will need your birth certificate (which is not free if you have to get one from the state of your birth) and two current utility bills, or college ID card, that show your current address to get a state issued picture ID card in Louisiana.
If you are a naturalized citizen, your citizenship documents are what you will use instead of a birth certificate.
When you go to the polls to cast your vote in an election, be sure to take one of the following:
a driver’s license,
a Louisiana Special ID, or
some other generally recognized picture ID that contains your name and signature.
Voters who have no picture ID may bring a utility bill, payroll check or government document that includes their name and address but they will have to sign an affidavit furnished by the Elections Division in order to vote. [emphasis mine]
Check your state’s Secretary of State website for voting ID requirements if you don’t have a drivers license.
Call the DMV for your particular state’s requirements to get an ID prior to going and waiting in line. It may cost some money and they can require cash or a money order. Ask how much, bring the required type of payment and required identifying documents with you.
If your license or ID is expired, get it renewed before you go to vote. An expired ID can be rejected. The same is true if you are using your passport as identification. If it is expired, either use another form of ID or get your passport renewed immediately.
When you registered to vote, you should have received a voter registration card. Bring it with you to the poll, too. This proves you are registered even if your name does not appear on the roll.
Don’t wait until election day to vote. Vote early when early voting begins in your area. You will find out if you have any problems then, and you can usually fix them before election day. Bring a friend or a couple of friends with you when you go to vote, whether early or on election day. Groups are less likely to be intimidated than individuals.
If challenged, you may be given a provisional ballot. Don’t accept one. You have civil rights to the following:
- Demand adjudication on the spot by the poll judges.
- Demand the supervisor of elections be called and your issue settled so you can vote unconditionally.
- If you find you’ve been caged or purged, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
- If you voted early, be a volunteer advocate at heavy minority, military or elderly polling places and help those who may be challenged to keep their right to vote. Bring a copy of the 7 Ways to Beat the Ballot Bandits leaflet and the above phone number with you for reference.
The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. We as citizens must protect that right for every American.
Photo Credit: ATP Kettlebells
I updated this post, but had to republish it in a new post. For some reason it wouldn’t save my changes to the published page even though they were still in the editor. I was not able to transfer any of the wonderful comments folks left before. I hope you’ll come back and leave new comments.