Fair and democratic elections are an important part of America's government system, and polling places play an important role in ensuring that. Both state and federal laws protect voters at polling places from unfair discrimination.
To make sure everyone has an opportunity to vote in national elections, polling places are expected to meet certain requirements.
Laws affect not just the polling place itself, but also what election staffers and voters are allowed to do inside and outside of the premises.
Here are our Top 7 legal reminders for Election Day:
- Locations must be accessible. No matter where you vote or in what state, every polling place must be accessible to persons with disabilities. You should never be prevented from voting because you can't get in the door.
- No campaigning inside. To prevent intimidation, candidates and special interest groups can't campaign too close to polling places. But the "no campaigning" rule also applies to what voters wear. Leave the campaign shirts and buttons at home, or you may be asked to cover up.
- Language accommodations. There's no requirement that voters must speak English well enough to read the ballot. It's always an option to bring someone with you to the polls, to assist you in interpreting election materials.
- Don't take pictures. Recording of any kind can be a problem in polling places, because some states view it as potentially intimidating. To avoid the issue, don't use your phone or take photos in the polling place. Wait until later to brag about voting.
- Check the times. Each state has its own requirements about when polling places will be open, but every state is required to make that information public. Check when your polling place is open so you make it in time.
- Carry your ID. Many states have some form of ID requirement for voters, and in this election it will affect even more people. Just to be safe, make sure you have a government-issued ID with you if at all possible.
- Know where to report a problem. While the goal is fair elections, there's always the possibility that things could go wrong. If something seems off, you can always contact an attorney to help correct it. But if it's only a minor issue, you might want to report it to your state's governing body on voting and move on.