ORLANDO, Fla. – Rarely does an election go off without a hitch. Most problems are not major issues but honest mistakes that can be corrected.
However, in an age of misinformation and reports of voter intimidation at the polls, nothing can be taken for granted.
If you are encountering a problem at the polls, here’s what you need to know and here’s how to report it.
Before you go to vote:
Make sure you are registered to vote. Florida required residents to be registered to vote for the November election by October 11. If you are not registered to vote, you cannot vote in the election. Go to the Florida Division of Elections website to check your voter registration status.
You must bring a form of identification that includes a picture and a signature. There are many acceptable forms of ID, you do not need to have a Florida-issued drivers license or identification card. You can find them all in the News 6 Voter Guide.
Make sure you are eligible to vote at the polling place you are going to. If you are voting early, you may vote at any early voting location within your county of residence, or at the county supervisor of elections office. If you are voting on Election Day, you must vote at your assigned polling precinct. You can look up that info at your county’s supervisor of elections website. You can find links in the News 6 Voter Guide.
If you do not speak or read English well, you can get help. You are allowed in-person assistance if you have trouble speaking or reading English. Florida counties are required to print ballots and election instructions in English and Spanish, but other languages may be available as well. Voters should call their county elections office ahead of time for assistance.
At the polling place:
If the poll worker cannot find your name in the records: Ask the poll worker to double-check. Make sure to spell out your name. Ask them to check a supplemental list of voters, or a statewide voter system. If they cannot do it, ask them to call the county elections office.
County of residence: On Election Day, as long as you live in the county and are at the assigned polling place for your address, you can update your voter records at the polling place. Poll workers cannot turn you away. Make sure to bring something that verifies your address.
You cannot be turned away from the polling place without being offered a provisional ballot: A provisional ballot is a regular ballot that simply must be verified by government officials after Election Day.
Officials will check the ballot against current records to verify the information, and then it will be counted like a regular ballot. You may be asked to bring additional records.
Polling places must be fully accessible for people with disabilities: This is required by federal law. All polling places must have at least one voting system that allows voters to vote independently and privately.
The voter is also allowed to bring a person to help as long as they are not an employer or an agent of a labor union. Know that you may have to swear under oath that you have a disability and that you have asked someone to help you.
If you have trouble standing in line, tell a poll worker. The poll worker must provide you with accommodation while you wait your turn to vote.
Poll workers must follow specific laws and cannot intimidate, harass, interfere with or try to influence voters: The Brennan Center for Justice has an easy-to-read wrap-up of all laws governing poll workers. The bottom line is poll workers have to be properly trained and follow specific rules in dealing with voters. If those rules are not being followed, ask for a supervisor, or call the county supervisor of elections office.
An assigned deputy sheriff will be at each polling place and is not allowed inside unless authorized: Florida law requires a deputy be present outside the polling place, not in uniform and not armed. They are there to maintain order outside the polling place. They are only allowed inside the polling place if it’s authorized by a clerk or a majority of inspectors.
Any citizen can challenge a voter’s eligibility, but they must follow certain rules: Challenges must be made in writing to the clerk or inspector of the polling place, and under oath. The voter must be immediately be notified and given the chance to fill out a provisional ballot. Submitting frivolous challenges is a misdemeanor, and knowingly challenging a voter with false information is a felony.
Florida has protections against voter intimidation. The supervisors of elections in Seminole and Volusia counties are investigating incidents of verbal attacks against voters at early voting locations. Political supporters are not allowed within 150 feet of a polling place or early voting site. No active campaigning is allowed within that zone. The Brennan Center for Justice has a wrap-up of Florida laws regarding voter intimidation.
Finally, if you are in line to vote at 7 p.m. on Election Day when the polls close, stay in line: Poll workers must allow everyone in line at 7 p.m. to have a chance to vote.
To report problems at your polling place:
Contact your county supervisor of elections office. You can look up the number here.
Contact the Florida Division of Elections:
- Voter Assistance Hotline: 1-866-308-6739
- Voter Fraud Hotline: 1-877-868-3737
Call the Election Protection Hotline, a national coalition of some 300 civil rights groups and other organizations that provide lawyers to answer complaints across the country:
- English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683
- Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
- Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287
- For Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese: 1-888-274-8683
You can also use the form below to report your polling place issues to WKMG News 6 and ClickOrlando.com.
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