As Election Day draws near, the rumors and lies about what is and isn’t allowed at a polling place begin to swirls. In addition to the usual anti-immigrant rhetoric (yes, you can take a translator into the voting booth if you need one) and the hate-all-criminals mantra (ex-felons are allowed to vote, as not all states discriminate) there’s a new twist this year thanks to the financial crisis (people in the midst of a foreclosure are allowed to vote).
These, among other myths, are being “busted” by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in an e-mail announcement.
Be sure you know your rights before you vote; the myths and truths listed below are provided by the ADC to help you with that effort:
MYTH: Poll workers can ask personal questions to determine my identity.
TRUTH: Poll workers are allowed to ask questions to determine the identity of a voter such as your address. Some states require voters to present a valid drivers license. However, poll workers are not permitted to ask questions pertaining to personal or political matters. Poll workers cannot intimidate voters and cannot ask for proof of citizenship if you are already registered. If a poll worker is intimidating you, please take down the poll workers name, and any names of witnesses. Upon leaving the polling place, please e-mail the ADC-VPU to firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 202-244-2990. You should also contact the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Voting Section or call toll-free at 800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767. To find out your state’s voter identification requirements, please call your Secretary of State's office, or visit the National Conference of State Legislatures' "Requirements for Voter Identification."
MYTH: You can't have assistance in the voter booth, including a translator.
TRUTH: Under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, an individual is allowed to have assistance in the voting booth if necessary. Assistance can include the use of a translator and those who cannot enter the voting booth or use the voting system due to a disability. You can choose anyone to assist, except for your employer, an agent of your employer, an officer or agent of your union or the Judge of Elections. You might be asked to complete and sign a form provided by the Election Officials at the polling place the first time you use an assistant. After the first time, your registration record will include notation of your request for assistance for subsequent elections.
MYTH: You can't be denied access to vote and forced to leave the voting polls without casting a ballot.
TRUTH: If a poll worker challenges your eligibility to vote you can request a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are researched after the election to determine the voter's eligibility. If eligibility is confirmed, the provisional ballot is opened and counted and included along with all other official election results.
MYTH: You can't vote if your home is in foreclosure.
TRUTH: If your home is in foreclosure, you don't lose your right to vote, nor can you be challenged on your right to vote. Some states, such as Michigan, allow those who have moved from their homes 60 days to vote in the same precinct. Please call your Secretary of State's office to find out if your state allows voters to vote if their home is in foreclosure.
MYTH: You can't wear campaign buttons, stickers or T-Shirts supporting a particular candidate or issue to the polls while voting.
TRUTH: Most states allow a voter to wear campaign attire into the polling place while he or she is there to vote (the voter may not linger in the polling place after voting); however, some jurisdictions such as Virginia have decided that such items are not allowed. It is best to contact your Secretary of State's office before you head to the polls. All jurisdictions prohibit campaign supporters from standing within 100 feet of the entrance of a polling station.
MYTH: As an ex-felon you can't vote.
TRUTH: Not all states prohibit ex-felons from voting. Some states even afford those on probation the opportunity to vote. To find out if your state allows ex-felons to vote and the qualifications that must be met to cast a ballot, contact your Secretary of State's office for clarification.