Fast forward to Election Day tomorrow. You’re checking in at
your precinct when a poll worker tells you you’re not in the book, that you’re
not listed as a registered voter.
|Call the nonpartisan Election Protection center’s hotline if you have any trouble at the polls. Many precincts will also have local election watchers available to help.
Don’t panic, but don’t walk away either. Firmly request a provisional ballot and make sure to get a receipt for it.
Also take the preemptive step – right now – of checking your voter registration status at this Vote.org page. You will know in a matter of seconds if you’re recorded as being registered in your state, and whether your address is listed correctly.
Knowing about provisional ballots, also called “challenge” or “affidavit” ballots, is critical this election cycle, with new reports every day about county and state officials nationwide purging voter rolls or figuring out other ways to turn people away at the polls.
Under federal law – the Help America Vote Act of 2002 – election officers must provide provisional ballots upon request to anyone whose eligibility is questioned when they show up to vote.
Whatever the problem – your name doesn’t appear in the precinct book, there’s a problem with your ID, or any other issue arises – do not leave without voting, with two exceptions:
- If you have proper ID but left it at home, go get it if time allows and return to cast a regular ballot.
- If it feels unsafe to stay and stand your ground, or you are refused a provisional ballot, immediately call the nationwide, nonpartisan Election Protection hotline at (866) Our-Vote (866-687-8683) or text the words “election protection” to 97779.
While states must comply with the federal law on provisional voting, standards for handling them vary. The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a wealth of information online.
Completed provisional ballots are separated from regular ballots. After the election, a review process determines whether voters were, in fact, eligible. If so, their votes are counted.
Those ballots have the potential to swing the outcome of tight races. As International President Lonnie R. Stephenson stresses, every single vote matters.
“We’re going to see races that are won or lost by razor-thin margins,” he said. “A single vote can make the difference, and that’s not hyperbole. It’s exactly what happened in Virginia last year with a seat in the House of Delegates. And that single vote in a single district would have put the Virginia House in the hands of a pro-worker majority. One vote.”