Election fraud, voter fraud, and voter suppression have been big concerns of voters since the primaries. Donald Trump brought the concerns back to the forefront when he talked about a “rigged election.” Some instances of voter irregularities ultimately end up being cases of voting machine malfunctions, but it’s still best to know what your options are if something suspicious occurs or seems to go wrong. Here are a list of different options you can use if you encounter problems on voting day or want to help with auditing the vote in the future.
Here’s what you need to know.
Don’t Let Voter Concerns Stop You From Voting
First and foremost, don’t let concerns about voting irregularities stop you from voting. With an alert eye, you can notice machine malfunctions and report them at your polling location. And if there are a few isolated incidents of voter fraud, it’s better to make sure that you do vote, in order to balance that out. So don’t let potential bad news stop you from going to the polls.
Avoid Straight Ticket Voting & Review Your Ballot
The biggest issues that came up in Texas during early voting all involved people who voted straight ticket on their ballot. Avoiding straight ticket voting could help alleviate some of these issues. In addition, if you can’t use a paper ballot, then review your touchscreen carefully before you cast your vote. Some voters have noticed that because voting machines are outdated, their ballot doesn’t register the right vote on some touchscreen models. So before you cast your ballot, double check it if you’re using an electronic voting machine.
If You Encounter Problems, Know Which Numbers to Call
If you do encounter problems, don’t panic. Know who you can call to report the issues. You can report issues to your Board of Elections official. You can also call 866-OUR-VOTE to get help from the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. You should also contact Election Justice USA and let them know about your experience. (You can find them on Facebook here.)
What Do To If You’re Given a Provisional Ballot or Told You Can’t Vote
Not all poll workers are properly trained. If you show up to vote and are told that you cannot vote or you’re not registered, and you know that you are, you can request a provisional ballot. You may be told you can’t vote because your name doesn’t appear on the voter registration list, you don’t have the right ID, or your eligibility was challenged. Don’t leave without voting. At least request a provisional ballot.
Once a provisional ballot is cast, election officials will later review it to determine your eligibility to vote. Sometimes you may have to submit forms within a certain period after election day to confirm your right to vote.
Of course, a provisional ballot is not as good as a regular ballot. It won’t be counted on election day. If at all possible, you want to vote on a regular ballot. Ask the official to recheck the rolls. Insist on your right to vote on a regular ballot if you are convinced they are wrong. Or call 866-OUR-VOTE for immediate help on what to do next.
What To Do If You’re Intimidated at a Polling Station
Sometimes a voter is illegally intimidated at a polling station. This can involve spreading false information, such as claiming you need to pass a literacy test to vote, or being threatened with arrest for a parking ticket while you’re trying to vote at a polling station. You may be told there’s no reason to vote or that polls are closed when they’re not. If you think you’re being targeted with intimidation, call 866-OUR-VOTE.
Request Ballot Images Under FOIA
According to Black Box Voting, a nonpartisan investigative reporting organization founded in 2003, most modern voting systems, including paperless touch-screens, capture images of each vote. These images are saved as electronic files, and the public has the right to request these under the Freedom of Information Act, as they are anonymous and don’t identify the voter. A serial number should link the ballot to the ballot image. You can compare the ballot images, as scanned, to the ballots themselves to confirm they’re accurate.
Black Box Voting reported that even if rumored “fraction magic” was applied to votes, the ballot images would remain intact. The organization suggests asking for a copy of ballot images under FOIA. If a polling location states that they aren’t saving ballot images, this would “essentially [be] blocking a built-in audit trail that, according to vendor notes, was originally intended to help the public validate the count.”
You can request ballot images by sending a Freedom of Information Act request to the custodian of records, which is typically the county election office, Black Box Voting stated. Americans United for Democracy, Integrity, and Transparency in Elections prepared a general public records request form that you can use at this link.
According to Black Box Voting:
Typically the law requires that right to inspect be honored right then and there. In other words, it is theoretically possible for you to ask to inspect the ballot images, or ballots, at the time you ask to do so. Asking for copies sometimes produces a time delay that in elections is often used to ‘run out the clock’ — delaying your ability to get the documents until after recount and contest periods have expired.”
It’s important to note that not all polling locations are responding favorably to this request. According to a Reddit thread here, Clark County, Nevada said that getting these ballot images would require a court order. Colorado counties and Ohio counties are more cooperative. And Iowa, meanwhile, has responded to requests saying there is no legal right to the ballot images.
Read more about ballot images and how to request them here.
Help By Auditing Local Polling Locations
You can also help by auditing your local polling location. Democracy Counts, a nonprofit corporation in California, has released audit software that anyone can use. If any evidence from the auditing software points to fraud, it will be sent to the candidates and community organizations. Five to 15 people are needed to audit a polling location, the organization says.
In the future, voting will likely become even more secure. Whether that means a return to paper ballots or moving on up technologically by implementing blockchain voting remains to be seen. But there are ways to make votes more secure. With encouragement from voters like people reading this story, elected officials will hopefully push for even greater security and accountability in the years to come.