It's Super Tuesday! Here's What to Do If You Run Into Problems at the Polls

For those of you exercising your voting rights today, there's a chance you might encounter challenges and frustrations at the polls. You have the right to vote privately and free of influence or coercion.
Publish date:
March 1, 2016
voting, elections, 2016 Election

It's Super Tuesday, the tipping point of many presidential primary seasons and one of the most exciting days of the year for those of us who enjoy glumly (or delightedly) staring at exit polls. If you want to follow the latest forecasts and commentary, FiveThirtyEight is a great resource, and the New York Times coverage is reliably good.

But for voters in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia, this is personal. Plus, Republicans are caucusing in Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming and Democrats are doing the same in American Samoa. (And I hope you Democrats Abroad are having fun too.)

If you voted by mail: You can confirm that your ballot was received and counted by using the detachable receipt from the top of your ballot. Often you can do this through your county or borough website. Otherwise, you will need to contact your county clerk or registrar of voters.

For those of you exercising your voting rights today — and I hope that's all of you — there's a chance you might encounter challenges and frustrations at the polls. Your vote counts, and fortunately, there are tons of resources available to help you if poll workers try to prevent you from casting your ballot, or if you're unable to cast your vote and want to obtain legal help. No matter who you're voting for, don't let your voice get buried by voter suppression tactics!

You have the right to vote privately and free of influence or coercion. If voting materials are not provided in your language or are in an inaccessible format, you can request translation or assistance (polling places can provide phone translation if no one is available onsite). If you see another voter struggling, speak up.

There are a whole lot of resources and a whole lot of people to contact here, but don't be intimidated. Reporting problems at the polls benefits not just you but other people who run the risk of being disenfranchised, and it's worth it. To help you out, there's a template at the bottom of this post that you can use to develop a generic letter to send out to everyone you need to contact.

At the poll or caucus site

If a pollworker tries to deny or interfere with your voting, take the problem to the precinct caption or coordinator. Lodge a formal complaint and ask that it be recorded. Request a copy. It's important to generate a paper trail from the start.

National organizations and individuals protecting voting rights

Election Protection: This group advocates aggressively for voting rights across the U.S. and they want to hear about it if your voting rights have been compromised. Call 866-OUR-VOTE, and consider downloading their smartphone app (also available in Spanish). If possible, call them from the polling place or as soon as you get home to increase the chance of being able to vote today.

The ACLU: One of the country's most venerable civil rights organizations is also hard at work on protecting your voting rights. You can use their website to look up your local affiliate to report problems and request legal assistance — be aware that the ACLU may not be able to take your case, but representatives will collect data about situations like yours and you could be considered for a class action lawsuit in the future.

Your political party: The Democratic and Republican National Committees want to hear from their voters about voting rights abridgment. Here's how to contact the Republicans, and here's how to contact the Democrats.

Your elected representatives: You can use this tool to find your elected representatives. Your Representative and state Senators will be particularly concerned about your voting experience.

Your candidate: Political candidates obviously have a vested interest in making sure their supporters get a chance to vote, and many have attorneys on the ground, so be sure to report voting problems while you're at the polls.

The National Council on Independent Living's Voting Rights Subcommittee: If you are disabled and you encounter disability-related discrimination at the polls, the NCIL wants to hear from you.

The NAACP: The This Is My Vote project is participating in voter organizing and efforts to fight voter suppression. If you're challenged at the polls, report it — and consider volunteering, too!

Numerous other groups that advocate on minority issues as well as agencies like the Veterans Administration also address voting rights — reach out to those you're most closely affiliated with to discuss your situation.

On the state level

Use this site for finding your representatives to locate members of your State House, and report the infringement on your voting rights.

Contact your state Democratic or Republican committees as well (Google '[state] [party] committee' and it will come right up).

In addition, contact your Secretary of State and Attorney General, who can be located via Google or your state government's main resource page (e.g. Mass.Gov).

State advocacy organizations are also good resources.

On the county (or borough, for Alaska Republicans) and city level

Contact your county/borough Republican or Democratic committee to report irregularities at the polls.

Also contact your county/borough clerk or registrar of voters. If you aren't sure about which official to contact, check your county government resources page.

Contact your local elected officials as well (using the tools above), including your city council and county/borough's government (like a Board of Supervisors or similar agency).

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper briefly outlining your experience and calling local officials to account for failing to protect voting rights.

Your handy complaint template

When relevant, you can send this as an email carbon copied to several parties: For instance, if you were voting for Rubio, you could send it to the Rubio campaign, the Republican National Committee, your state Republican Committee, and your county/borough Republican Committee.

In all cases, keep copies of everything you send and receive, including letters sent through the mail. When you talk to people on the phone, take down their names — if possible, record phone conversations (TapeACall is a super useful app for that and it is totally worth paying for it). Make sure to check your state's laws about recording telephone calls first. If you live in an all party or two party state, you will need to tell the person you are talking to that you are recording her.

Dear [official or organization],

On March 1st, I attempted to vote at [precinct number/polling site location] and was [challenged and/or unable to do so] by the pollworker and precinct supervisor on the grounds that [reason], in contravention of state and/or federal law [if you are able to do so, cite the relevant law, such as the requirements of Alabama's voter ID law or the ADA checklist for polling places]. Attached is a copy of the complaint I filed with the precinct supervisor.

I am concerned about this abridgment of my voting rights as well as those of other voters who may have encountered similar experiences and wish to draw your attention to the matter.

You can contact me at [phone number, etc].


[Me McMe]

Photos: Maryland GovPics (1, 2)