The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. Thomas Paine- 1796

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, affirm and promote the use of the democratic process…The Fifth Principle of the UUA

On November 4, the General Election will be held. With the record turnout for the Presidential Primaries, early voting in states that allow it, and a huge influx of new voter registrations, this could quite possibly be the largest election in the history of the United States.

The botched elections in Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004) have kept people on the lookout for voter fraud. The 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), attempted to remedy many these problems by making it easier to register to vote, updating old voting technologies, and making voting practices more secure. While it has solved some of these issues, HAVA still has a lot of issues to work out–mostly due to lack of oversight on the appropriation of funds and unrelaiable voting machines. Today, 27 states — including such large ones as California, New York, Illinois, and Ohio require electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail. There is paper-trail legislation pending in a dozen more states.

There is still a need for Congress to pass a strong federal law requiring electronic voting machines to produce reliable paper records.

And there have been quite a few problems leading up to this election. The controversy surrounding ACORN’s voter registration drive (less than 1% of their registration of 1.3 million new voters have been found to be inaccurate) has created a flashpoint surrounding voting records. This has increased a clampdown in many states and making sure everyone on the rolls is a legitimate voter may have caused legitimate voters to be stricken from the records. Many Sec’s of State and Political Committees have used this opportunity to disenfranchise many voters by striking them from the voting register, a practice used long before the controversy surrounding ACORN.

To ensure your voter registration, please visit before November 4th to confirm your registration and find your polling place. Remember, your polling place should be close to your home address. You can also call your local board of elections to confirm your voter registration and polling location.

Please take note of where your polling place is and be sure of how to get to it from your residence or work place.

On November 4th, please be aware of your rights while voting.

Take time off of work. Your employer is legally obligated to give you time off of work to vote. Whether coming in late, taking a long lunch, or leaving early, you are allowed to take time off of work to vote. Do not let work or a boss keep you from casting your vote.

Stay in line. Expect long lines at your polling site. Visiting your site during off-peak hours will help reduce the time you will have to wait in line. Between 10 and 11 AM or 2 and 4 PM will have the least amount of voters. Once you are in line, do not leave. Everyone in line has the right to vote, even after the polls have closed. Anyone who is attempting to intimidate voters in line by threatening to call the police on people waiting is in strict violation of the law.

Many states require proof of identification. This may be required for all voters. Other states may require identification for first time voters or people who registered through the postal service. Please be prepared to bring proper identification.

You have the right to a provisional ballot. If you have confirmed your voter registration with your local board of elections but find that your name is not on the roster or is being challenged by one of the campaigns, do not panic. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot. Please retain any receipt the poll worker gives you (or ask for one). This will give you the appropriate information to confirm that your provisional ballot was counted.

Read any signs on the wall. This will give you clear information on your rights as a voter. Signs may include an example ballot as well as any local laws protecting your rights as a voter. For instance, signs in California, New York State and Washington DC may inform you that it is illegal to wear or display any campaign paraphernalia in the polling site. Signs may also inform you how to contact your local board of elections in order to file a complaint or describe any violations of your rights.

Bring your sample ballot. Many states offer sample ballots either through the mail or online. These sample ballots will often give helpful information on candidates or propositions on the ballot. Feel free to complete your sample ballot at home before you travel to the polls. You have every right to bring your sample ballot with you into the voting booth. You have the right to be an informed voter.

Take your time. You have the right to take as much time as you need to vote. If you have made a mistake, you may “spoil” your ballot and ask for a new one. You have every right to ask for a new ballot. Don’t let anyone rush you or harass you while voting. Many areas may have new voting technologies you may not be familiar with. You should ask for help if you need it. Many states and jurisdictions will also offer ballots in other languages. When in doubt, ask a poll worker.

When in doubt, ask a poll worker. If you have any questions, ask a poll worker. If you have a problem or concern, ask a poll worker. If your ballot is incorrect or incomplete, ask a poll worker. If you are afraid you are at the incorrect polling site, ask a poll worker. If campaign officials are harassing people in line, ask a poll worker. If you feel harassed by a poll worker, ask for a different poll worker or a precinct captain.

Pay Attention. If you find anything suspicious while voting, please keep track of it. If there is anyone intimidating you or other voters, please make note of it. If you are having a difficult time with a poll official, please make note of it. If you find your ballot is incorrect, please make a note of it. If you press the button for one candidate but find the name of another one lights up, please make a note of it. Please file any complaints to your board of elections and the Lawyer’s Committe for Civil Rights Election Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-886-867-8683).

If you have already voted either by absentee ballot or early voting, consider being an election judge or participating with video the vote a grassroots organization that is documenting any irregularities on polling day. (Remember to honor any local laws concerning voter privacy in the jurisdiction while participating in video the vote)

And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008.

About the Author
Alex Winnett

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