By Sarah K. Burris – – – –
Last week, the Boston Globe interviewed a Trump supporter who admitted that he’ll be going to polling places looking for “Mexicans. People who can’t speak American” so that he can “go right up behind them” and “make them a little bit nervous.” If you don’t already know, that’s illegal, but it hasn’t stopped Trump from encouraging his supporters to do it.
“Make sure everything is on the up. Make sure everything is on the up and up,” Trump said twice, in case his supporters didn’t hear. “You’ve been reading the same stories as I’ve been reading, so go to your place and vote. And then go pick some other place and go sit there with your friends and make sure it’s on the up and up. Because you know what, that’s a big, big problem in this country and nobody wants to talk about it. So go and watch these polling places.”
As if voters don’t already have to contend with nonsense like, Voter ID requirements, reduced number of polling places in strategic locations and false claims about voter fraud, now we have to deal with this.
To help you out as you head to the polls, here’s a small list of things that could happen and what you should do.
ACLU Voter Protection Hotline: 877-523-2792 or 1-866-OUR-VOTE or Tweet to @866OurVote
1. You could be challenged to show photo ID:
If you’re headed to vote and a Trumpster or polling officer finds you suspicious, they could demand that you show a photo ID to prove you are who you say you are. You might think it’s impossible, but it happened to Native American voters in South Dakota in 2004 and it has been happening to African-Americans since they finally achieved the right to vote.
Don’t freak out. According to Oklahoma ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, these “artificial and onerous impediments to exercising your voice in the democratic process vary wildly from state to state.” As a result, you will have to check online here to see if you have to have a state-issued photo ID to vote. However, Kiesel was quick to point out that in Oklahoma, poll workers will wrongly tell people that they can’t cast a ballot without their ID. That’s not true. In most states, a person can cast a provisional ballot if they don’t have the proper form of voter ID.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to what kind of voter ID laws are going to be in place for this election cycle,” Kiesel explains. So, it’s best to look it up online or simply Google “voter ID laws” and a helpful Google box pops up to give you some information.
2. A dude with a gun on his hip gets too close to you or photographs you.
So, you’re excited to vote. You’re wearing your hot pink Planned Parenthood t-shirt, you’ve left your Hillary Clinton button in the car (because there is no electioneering in a polling place) and you step into the line. Spotting your left-leaning tendencies, a big burly bro sitting in a folding chair spots you and walks up. You notice he has a gun on his hip. He stands close enough to you that you can smell his breakfast. Or even if there is someone there photographing you or filming you as you stand in line. The tactic is a commonly used tool from the anti-choice movement to bully and dox pro-choice advocates.
Keep calm. “Any voter who feels like their right to vote is being impeded by another person should know that they have the right to cast a ballot,” Kiesel said. “If it’s a government official standing in your way then I suggest trying to go over their heads.”
Just because it’s a polling place doesn’t mean that all bets are off or suddenly no laws apply. If anyone is following you around, whether he’s at a shopping mall or a polling place, you can report it.
“People certainly have the right to exercise their speech with some restrictions around polling places, but that doesn’t mean you can follow someone around with the intent to intimidate someone,” Kiesel says.
“If you’re experiencing that activity, you’re probably not the only person who is feeling intimidated,” Kiesel continues. “You can do everyone a service by reporting that to the poll workers, local law enforcement, but also include local organizations like the ACLU in the groups you’re reaching out to.”
So, if this is a worker at the polling place, contact your county election board. If your county election board is giving you flack, go to the state. If all else fails and you feel like something is wrong, call the hotline above or contact the ACLU at 877-523-2792 or other voter protection hotlines at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
3. If you’re told the polls are closing and it’s too late.
Let’s say you’ve been at work or in class all day. You’re exhausted and your triple-shot espresso wore off well before sunset. You pull into your polling place well before it closes and because of polling location reductions, you step into a line that winds through the parking lot. You’re tired but you’re in it for the long haul because it’s your patriotic duty. Then a nice lady with a clipboard comes up to tell you that you won’t be able to be inside the building to vote by the time polls close. She says you should just go home.
First, never listen to anyone with a clipboard. Sure, she may seem nice and official, but any person that is in line by the time clock strikes closing time is allowed to vote. It might be hard to stand up to such a seemingly nice person, but make sure everyone knows that if you’re in line, you’re good to go.
At Kenyon College in 2004, some students waited in line for over 11 hours, even after the media called the election, just to make sure they cast a ballot. Never give up and never trust someone who’s trying to stop you from voting.
4. Telling you the polling place has moved, the election is over, or on another day, really anything.
People will say and do anything to keep their opposition from voting. Fliers sometimes pop up in neighborhoods with high concentration of Democratic donors that give misleading information or are downright false. The day of the election could be moved, the polling place, really anything.
As with the sketchy woman with the clipboard, don’t believe anything you hear. Your best bet is to google it or call a polling official. If you can’t google it, call or tweet the Voter Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE or @866OurVote. They’ll help you figure out what’s going on and make sure you have the proper information.
In the end, that’s the real solution for anything that could happen to you at the polls. It’s like the old X-Files saying, “trust no one.” Verify whatever anyone tells you, don’t allow anyone to intimidate you or someone else and call the hotline if someone tries to claim you don’t get to vote.
“One of the most important things not to do is to just walk away,” Kiesel says. “Don’t think that a poll worker is correct in telling you that you can’t vote, or be intimidated at your polling place and to allow their activity to keep you from casting a ballot. The most important thing to do is fight for your right to cast that ballot on Election Day.”
We shouldn’t have to fight for our right to vote anymore, but welcome to 2016 in America. Keep calm and vote on.