October 27, 2016

Don't Let Them Stop You From Voting

Some political candidates fear that they cannot win an honest election. Rather than face the truth and accept defeat with grace, they proclaim that any result which doesn't go their way must be "rigged".

What they really mean is that they haven't been able to rig it in their own favor.

So, in desperation, they decide that their only chance is to prevent people from voting.

In some locations, bullies and thugs will be present at polling places, attempting to interfere with the right of citizens to vote. In particular, they will target people of color and people whose first language is not English. They may also target people they think might be poor, gay, Muslim, college students, or members of almost any ethnic minority.

They may do this simply by hanging around the polling place, possibly wearing fake badges to make themselves look official. They may call out insults to the people who are in line to vote. They may try to intimidate voters by taking pictures or videos of people coming and going from the polling place. They may try to conduct "exit polls" of people leaving the polling place.

Some may carry this further by challenging the eligibility of voters. They may try to claim that you are not properly registered, or that you are not who you say you are.

Some may try to use other kinds of scare tactics. For example, they may post flyers near polling places, claiming that people with outstanding parking tickets or unpaid child support can be arrested when they identify themselves to vote. This is not true!

Here's the good news: This kind of voter intimidation is uncommon. Most of us will not run into anything like this. Even though you may have heard a desperate candidate encouraging his supporters to do these things, in most places it will not happen.

What if something like this does occur in your town? Don't be intimidated. Voting is your right. The system cannot work unless everyone has a chance to participate.

  • If someone is trying to intimidate voters on election day, notify the poll workers. They know the rules and know how to deal with the problem.
  • Before you go to the polling place, write down the phone number of your local election board. If you run into a serious problem, you can call them for help.
  • You do not have to tell anyone how you plan to vote. If you are approaching a polling place and someone asks you how you are going to vote, ignore them and keep on walking.
  • Some news organizations conduct exit polls so they can report the progress of the election. Some intimidators may conduct exit polls as well. You can participate in an exit poll if you want to, but you do not have to. You can simply say no thanks and keep on walking.
  • If your eligibility to vote is in question, ask the poll worker for a provisional ballot.
  • Do not get into an argument with anyone at or near the polling place. This will not solve the problem, and it could get you in trouble. Bullies and troublemakers should be ignored or reported to authorities.
  • Don't let anyone scare you. If you feel a little bit scared, breathe slowly and deeply to calm yourself. Then vote.


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