Election 2020: Know Your Rights at the Polling Place
What are my general rights on Election Day?
- If the polls close while you’re still in line, stay in line – you have the right to vote.
- If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one.
- If the machines are down at your polling place, ask for a paper ballot.
- If you run into any problems or have questions on Election Day, call your us.
I’m not sure what to bring to the polls
You don’t need to bring anything unless it’s your first time voting at a new polling place. If it’s your first time, you much bring one of the approved forms of identification on this list. Your ID doesn’t need to be a photo ID; there are many forms of non-photo ID that are acceptable. Learn what materials you’ll need to bring with you to the polling place on Election Day.
What’s a Poll Watcher?
To be a poll watcher, a person must be a qualified registered elector of the county in which the election district for which the watcher is to be appointed is located. Poll watchers must be identified and must receive official county credentials in advance and must be assigned to specific precincts. Individuals may not serve as poll watchers except as specifically described above.
Each candidate may appoint two poll watchers for each election district in which he or she appears on the ballot. Each political party and political body which has nominated candidates on the ballot may appoint three poll watchers for each election district at any general, municipal or special election in which the candidates of such party or body are on the ballot. However, only one poll watcher may be present in the polling place at one time for each candidate at primaries or for each candidate, party, or political body during general, municipal or special elections, from the time election officers meet prior to the opening of the polls until the time that the counting of votes is complete. It is also important to note that all poll watchers must remain outside the enclosed space.
What poll watchers CAN do at the polling place
Watchers may make good faith challenges to a voter’s identity, continued residence in the election district, or qualifications as an eligible voter. Poll watchers should direct permitted challenges directly to the Judge of Elections. Read more about challenges below.
What watchers CANNOT do at the polling place
Poll watchers must remain a safe and respectful distance away from the space where voting is occurring. Poll watchers may not engage, attempt to influence, or intimidate voters or otherwise interfere with or impinge on the orderly process of voting. Social distancing measures should be maintained to ensure a safe polling place for voters and poll workers.
Voter intimidation and threatening conduct are illegal under federal and Pennsylvania law. Any activity by a poll watcher that threatens, harasses, or intimidates voters, including any activity that is intended to, or has the effect of, interfering with any voter’s right to vote, whether it occurs outside the polling place or inside the polling place, is illegal.
Examples of voter intimidation include, but are not limited to:
- Photographing or videotaping voters
- Disseminating false or misleading election information to voters
- Blocking the entrance to a polling place
- Confronting, hovering, or directly speaking to or questioning voters
- Any threatening behavior
- Asking voters for documentation
Poll watchers are also NOT allowed to engage in electioneering while inside the polling place or within 10 feet of the entrance to the polling place. Though watchers are representatives of candidates or political parties and political bodies, they are not entitled to electioneer on behalf of their candidate, political party, or political body while inside the polling place. Electioneering includes soliciting votes, posting or displaying written or printed campaign materials, and handing out pamphlets or other campaign paraphernalia.
Can My Right to Vote be Challenged at the Polling Place?
Your right to vote can only be challenged if a poll worker, poll watcher, or another voter says you do not live in the precinct or are not who you say you are. Your right to vote can only be challenged on the basis that you are falsifying your identity or are not a resident of the precinct. Challenges must be submitted directly to the Judge of Elections. Poll watchers should not address the person they are challenging.
If the Judge of Elections is satisfied with your identity or residence, you vote as normal. If they cannot determine your eligibility, you can still vote in-person if another voter from the precinct signs an affidavit vouching for your identity or residence. If not, you can still vote using a provisional ballot.
The poll worker says my name is not on the list of registered voters.
- Voters are entitled to a provisional ballot, even if they aren’t in the poll book.
- After Election Day, election officials must investigate whether you are qualified to vote and registered. If you are qualified and registered, they will count your provisional ballot.
What to do
- Ask the poll worker to double check for your name on the list of registered voters. Make sure to spell your name out for the poll worker.
- If your name is not on the list, ask if there is a supplemental list of voters.
- If the poll worker still cannot find your name, confirm that you are at the correct polling place:
- Request that the poll workers check a statewide system (if one is available) to see if you are registered to vote at a different polling place.
- If the poll worker does not have access to a statewide system, ask them to call the main election office.
- If you are registered at a different location, in most instances you will have to travel to that location to cast a regular ballot.
- If the poll worker still cannot find your name or if you cannot travel to the correct polling place, ask for a provisional ballot.
I speak English less than “very well”
Under federal law, voters who have difficulty reading or writing English may receive in-person assistance at the polls from the person of their choice. This person cannot be the voter’s employer, an agent of the voter’s employer, or an agent or officer of the voter’s union.
Counties covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act are required to provide bilingual assistance to voters in specific languages. This means that they must provide poll workers who speak certain languages and make all election materials and election-related information available in those languages. Check whether your county is required to provide bilingual election assistance in a language you speak.
What to do
- You can bring a family member, friend, or other person of your choice to assist you at the polls. Do not bring your employer, or an agent of your employer or union.
- If you live in a county that’s required to provide bilingual voting assistance for a language you speak, you can request oral assistance from a bilingual poll worker and ask for voting materials, such as a ballot, in that language.
- If you have trouble voting due to lack of English fluency, call one of these hotlines:
- Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
Someone is Interfering with my Right to Vote
Examples of voter intimidation
- Aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications to vote.
- Falsely representing oneself as an elections official.
- Displaying false or misleading signs about voter fraud and related criminal penalties.
- Other forms of harassment, particularly harassment targeting non-English speakers and voters of color.
- Spreading false information about voter requirements.
- You do not need to speak English to vote, in any state.
- You do not need to pass a test to vote, in any state.
- Some states do not require voters to present photo identification.
- It’s illegal to intimidate voters and a federal crime to “intimidate, threaten, [or] coerce … any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of [that] other person to vote or to vote as he may choose.”
What to do if you experience voter intimidation
- In many states, you can give a sworn statement to the poll worker that you satisfy the qualifications to vote in your state, and then proceed to cast a ballot.
- Report intimidation to your local election officials. Their offices will be open on Election Day.
Can I Take A Ballot Selfie and Post It on Social Media?
Yes, but you should be careful not to disclose any other voter’s ballot and it is recommended that you wait until after you leave the polling place to post photos of your ballot selfie.
Can I Bring a Gun to Vote?
Yes, but is that really necessary? It probably isn’t but if you insist on bringing a gun to the polling place, there are several restrictions of which you should be aware.
First, you must be permitted to open-carry firearms. These rules are subject to change, including during public emergencies.
Second, you may not bring a firearm if your polling place is in a school, courthouse, place where PA law prohibits firearms, or inside a private property that forbids them.
Lastly, it is illegal to display your firearm in a way that intimidates other voters. The law balances your right to carry a gun with the effect that carrying a weapon may have on other voters.