Whether it's the midterms or the presidential election, the importance of election day can't be underestimated. There's always a lot riding on the votes that are cast. But you may have also heard a little about registration requirements, voter ID laws, and something called "illegal voting."
When is it actually illegal to cast a ballot, and when can voting be a crime? Here's what you need to know.
Most of tomorrow's ballot will be made of local candidates and ballot measures. But quite a few of us will be voting on our state senators and representatives. Registering to vote based on false information (like a fake name, address, or ID) or voting in someone else's place is a crime. And it's also a crime to prevent a registered voter from casting a ballot. Furthermore, it's a crime to use threats or intimidation to compel someone to vote a certain way.
As a general rule, being convicted of or pleading guilty to a felony means losing your right to vote. But state laws on reinstating those rights can vary -- in some states the revocation is permanent; in others, ex-cons can apply to have their voting rights restored two years after completing their sentence.
Nobody slips and falls and votes by accident. But many people can be confused about their immigration status, and how that affects their voting rights. As a rule, aliens, even legal permanent residents, can't vote. But if they vote without knowing that, can they automatically be deported?
Between voter ID laws, reasonable accommodations for the disabled or those speaking English as a second language, and bans on campaigning at the polls, election day can be an adventure. Make sure you keep it legal.
With all those requirements and restrictions around polling places, who's in charge of enforcing those laws? Some states do allow political parties with a candidate in a race to appoint "watchers" at general, municipal, or special elections. How do those laws work?
If you've been accused of a voting crime, or believe someone is illegally impeding your right to vote, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area.