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3 Election Day Laws to Know

The first Tuesday in November is Election Day, and while most of the country is looking forward to next year's presidential election, many Americans are headed to the polls for everything from state laws, to local ballot initiatives.

Voting laws in the United States have a long, storied, and sometime sordid history, from the "Vote early and vote often" days of the early 1900s, to Bush v. Gore in 2000. Here are three voting and election laws you may need to know on your way to the polls.

  1. You Can Vote -- If you're 18 and a U.S. a citizen, you can vote. (Although states may add a couple other restrictions like no felony convictions and requirements like picture ID.) You also must be registered to vote, which, depending on your state of residence, can be its own adventure. While there may appear to obstacles between you and the ballot box, you should know that you have the right to vote and you should exercise that right.
  2. Corporations Can Vote (Sort Of) -- In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no limit on campaign spending by corporations, holding that corporations, like people, have some free speech rights and that laws limiting the amount of money that can be spent by corporations on campaign contributions unconstitutionally infringed on those rights. The New York Times reports that the ruling has allowed just 158 super-wealthy families to account for almost half of all political contributions in the 2016 presidential race.
  3. And No One Can Stop You -- There are a few common election law violations you may want to keep an eye out for on Election Day. First, make sure you're familiar with your state's voter ID laws. These laws have been changing recently and could keep you from voting. Second, polling places must provide reasonable accommodations for the disabled and language accommodations for those who are not fully literate in English, so if you're having trouble at your polling place, let someone know. Third, campaigns can bombard you with ads in the run-up to an election, but there are prohibitions on campaigning at the polls. State campaign laws vary, but make sure no one is trying to influence you while you're actually voting.

Endless campaign ads and the non-stop political rhetoric can be tiring. But voting gives everyone a say in our local, state, and national elections. Make sure you get to the polls and cast your vote on Election Day.

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