OurCount is a movement to make sure every Black person counts, every Black community counts, and every Black vote counts. We partnered with Demos to prepare this know-your-rights guide for in-person voters this year. Read on to learn more about what to do if someone tries to interfere with your voting experience. Click here for a printable version of this guide to carry with you to the polls.
No matter who you are or where you live, you have the right to vote without anyone bothering, threatening, or discriminating against you. The overwhelming majority of us won’t have any such issues as we vote, but there are some politicians and groups whose followers may try to annoy or intimidate voters they think will vote for the other side. There is a no-politics zone around the polling place (usually around 100 feet) where nobody can try to talk you into voting for one candidate or another, and you have the right to feel safe both inside that zone and beyond it. There are federal laws (and laws in most states) that protect you from any person or group:
- Asking you if you’re a citizen or have a criminal record to try to get you not to vote
- Harassing, challenging, or otherwise trying to intimidate you based on your race, gender identity, who they think you’re voting for, or anything else
- Claiming you need to speak English, pass a test, or pay parking tickets or electric bills in order to vote — not true!
- Following you around at the polling place or blocking your path to the entrance
- Displaying a gun or other weapon in a way that makes you feel unsafe
- Pretending to be an election official or law enforcement official
- Saying or doing anything that makes you afraid to vote or wait on line to vote
What should I do if I see something problematic or have trouble voting?
- Stay calm and ask to talk to a poll worker. Tell them what’s happening, and ask them to fix the problem and tell their supervisor. If they can’t help, ask to speak to the person in charge of that polling location.
- Report the problem and get help. Call Election Protection at 866-OUR-VOTE or go to 866ourvote.org and scroll down until you see the “Need help?” box to chat. 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA en Español.
- You can also call the county elections office to report the issue. You can Google your county name + “elections office” or click here and pick your state and county.
What if someone says they are “challenging” my right to vote?
- Stay calm and confident, and don’t engage with them. You still have the right to cast your ballot!
- Ask a poll worker what you need to do to be sure your ballot is counted.
- If the person persists in attempting to challenge you, have the poll worker make them prove they have the right to challenge voters. In many states a person is not qualified to challenge a voter unless they’re a registered voter in the same county, and they usually have to be signed up in advance and wear special identification.
- If the person claims to be a “poll watcher,” ignore them if you feel safe to do so, or tell a poll worker they’re bothering you and ask to have them removed. Official poll watchers, who are usually affiliated with a political party, need to be signed up in advance. In most places they’re not supposed to talk to voters, just poll workers.