Attempts to annul, impede or suppress the votes of Hispanics and other minorities are a serious problem every election cycle. Civil rights groups are particularly worried this year because Donald Trump has called on supporters to "monitor” the polls.
Here is a basic guide on how to deal with intimidation at polling stations.
What is voter intimidation?
● Displaying posters outside polling stations with threatening messages such as: “Only English Spoken Here," "Electoral Fraud is a Crime" or "Only Citizens Can Vote."
● Harassing people as they try to cast their ballot or interfering in any way with their ability to exercise their vote.
● Using violence or force.
● Contesting a vote on grounds of discrimination such as race, ethnicity, language or gender.
● Threatening or bribing voters.
● Mailing or distributing leaflets containing false information about the voting process.
Who is allowed at polling stations?
● In addition to the people working at the polls, each party may appoint a maximum of two observers to be present inside the polling station. Those observers cannot speak directly with voters.
● In some counties, especially in southern states, the government also sends election observers to oversee the process.
● If polling station officials require it, police can be inside the voting booths area but they should only remain for as long as necessary.
What should you do in the face of intimidation?
● Alert the municipal secretary or designated officials at the polling station.
● Contact the election protection line at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTE (in Spanish).
● Contact the state or local elections office for information on filing complaints.
● File a complaint with the Department of Justice by calling 800-253-3931 or emailing email@example.com.
What to do if a voter’s right to cast a ballot is disputed?
● If the voter is at the wrong polling station, the poll center’s supervisor can help direct him/her to the correct place to vote.
● A vote can be disputed on grounds of citizenship, residence, age, identity, or allegations that a person has already cast a ballot. But the voter can proceed unless evidence is presented that they are disqualified.
● If a voter cannot cast a ballot immediately because of a disqualification claim, they have the right to a hearing the same day at the county election board. Disputes must be made in writing with specific claims.
● A judge can then examine the register and voter’s details. If the judge rejects the dispute, the voter can proceed to cast their ballot. The judge may require the voter to swear an oath that they are qualified. Anyone refusing to swear an oath can be denied their right to vote.
● Denise Lieberman, a lawyer at Advancement Project:
"If people feel intimidated at polling stations, they should document the behavior, noting the date, time and location and report it to either 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTE or to any organization acting to protect voters in the area. They should also report it to their local authorities."
● Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, director of The New Florida Majority.
"Campaign observers can NOT talk to voters, ask for ID or directly address a voter. They cannot observe who a voter is casting a ballot for in the polling booth. They CANNOT use phones, cameras or any wireless or recording devices."
● Juliana Cabrales, NALEO
"It is important to remember that if a voter is not comfortable with English, they can take somebody along to help them understand the ballot. If they are questioned about the companion, the voter should state that they have the right to bring someone to help."