Protect Your Voting Rights on November 6
As I write this, millions of people in the US and Caribbean are struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy. While some people are searching for missing loved ones, burying their dead, and trying to pump millions of gallons of seawater out of subway tunnels, U.S. election officials are trying to ensure that next Tuesday's presidential election will occur as planned, and that absentee and early voting ballots will get counted.
Google has a database of polling places and election-related resources that should include information on any changes resulting from the hurricane.
Here's a list of changes to voting schedules and procedures in states affected by Superstorm Sandy so far:
New York State
- Absentee ballot deadline was extended from October 30 to Nov. 2, 2012
- This page will list changes in county polling sites, if any.
- This page has updated voting information for New York city.
- The early voting deadline was extended to Nov. 2. The absentee ballot deadline was extended to Oct. 31. Check here for updates.
These states do not appear to have announced changes in polling places or deadlines, but here are links to pages that would have the most current information, should there be changes:
- Yo! Philly Votes app for Philadelphia voters created by BlogHer member Faye Anderson
I wish a natural disaster was our only impediment to a free and fair election.
It sickens me to write this, because the last thing Americans should have to worry about days before a presidential election is whether their right to vote will be protected.
And yet, dodgy voter purges, a barrage of misinformation and perhaps even criminal conspiracies threaten to disenfranchise voters in across the country. The violations, trickery and confusion have been so widespread that it's taking an army of voting rights activists to track and counter the violations.
Here's what you can do to make sure your vote counts on or before November 6.
Know your state's voting requirements. If you aren't sure, the non-partisan Election Protection website has up-to-date state-by state information on what you'll need.
If you registered recently, you may want to verify your registration status before heading to the polls. In Virginia earlier this month, Colin Small was arrested after he was allegedly discovered discarding voter registration forms. The state Attorney General's office is investigating to see whether the problem is widespread.
That question has already been answered in Florida, where the Republican Party there cut its ties with a consulting firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, that allegedly submitted fraudulent registration forms and discarding forms from Democrats. North Carolina's election officials are also reviewing the firm's work there. The owner of the firm, Nathan Sproul, had also been linked to similar charges in prior elections.
Check your registration status here: Virginia, Florida. (By the way, I found out just the other day that a member of my family who filled out a registration form at a public event in Pennsylvania never got his registration card. He might also have been a victim of the same practice.)
Don't be fooled by Voter ID misinformation. Several states have passed laws requiring photo ID and or proof of citizenship in order to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice has a detailed breakdown. Court rulings have either struck down or delayed implementation of new restrictions in some states.
Here is Election Protection's list of states requiring government-issued photo ID:
These are states where photo ID law is blocked: You do not have to have government-issued photo ID in order to vote.
- Alabama (has not been precleared with DOJ)
- Mississippi (has not been precleared with DOJ)
- South Carolina (was not precleared by DOJ, still in litigation)
- Texas (federal court rejected voter ID law and will not be in effect for General Election)
- Wisconsin (permanently enjoined and will not be in effect for General Election
- Pennsylvania (not in effect for 2012 General Election)
For the historically minded, the events are breathtaking and ominous. For example, the Atlantic's Molly Ball writes that the civil rights coalition, the Advancement Project wants to prevent the events that caused many to doubt the integrity of the 2000 and 2004 presidential votes:
A decade past the Florida nightmare and 2004's "voter caging" schemes, in which GOP poll monitors challenged tens of thousands of Ohio voters with little basis, advocates are far more proactive about anything that could be construed as discouraging people -- particularly minorities -- from voting. The Advancement Project was a party to the lawsuit that stopped Pennsylvania's voter ID law and will be working with a coalition of "election protection" groups to monitor the polls in targeted areas of nine states on Election Day. (None will receive more attention, of course, than Florida.)
Election monitors will be on hand this year as well, many from True the Vote, an organization committed to rooting out voter fraud that has been accused of intimidating minority voters. For its part, True the Vote cites a 2012 Pew research study's
findings that voter registration systems are outdated as evidence of the widespread potential for voter fraud. That study concluded:
Voter registration in the United States largely reflects its 19th-century origins and has not kept pace with advancing technology and a mobile society. States’ systems must be brought into the 21st century to be more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient.
Research commissioned by the Pew Center on the States highlights the extent of the challenge:
- Approximately 24 million—one of every eight—voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.
- More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters.
- Approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.
Meanwhile, researchers estimate at least 51 million eligible U.S. citizens are unregistered, or more than 24 percent of the eligible population.
True the Vote also has a page that it says proves that there have been recent voter fraud prosecutions and convictions in 46 states. A cursory look at some of the links produced stories about absentee ballot fraud, a carpet-bagging candidate, a vote-buying scheme, and at least one case of illegal voting by a non-citizen. Others were stories about identity theft that did not mention voting. Still others involve cases under investigation that have not been resolved.
The Brennan Center says that its research finds that voting fraud is exceedingly rare. A 2012 analysis of more than 2000 alleged voter fraud cases by News 21 found "scant evidence that it happens." More importantly, they found no evidence that the voter ID laws passed in recent years were needed.
All eyes are on the U.S.
Finally, a personal note.
Last month, I spent a week in Nepal giving presentations on Minority Rights in Civil Society at the behest of the US Embassy there. The tiny nation between India and China has been in the throes of a constitutional crisis, trying to find a political model that will help members of historically-marginalized groups -- such as women, indigenous peoples, the Dalits, Christians, Muslims, disabled folks -- live and contend peacefully alongside former Maoist insurgents, monarchists, and Hindu nationalists. The Embassy brought me there for conversations about the degree to which the American struggle for equality holds lessons for the builders of civil society in Nepal. I found myself repeatedly stressing that the importance of equal access to the ballot and faith in the integrity of the voting process.
They are watching. Indeed, the whole world is watching.
Blogher is non-partisan, but many of their bloggers are not.