Marc Solomon is a long-time political strategist who literally wrote the book on the campaign to bring marriage equality to America. So when he moved to New Jersey, registering to vote was an important priority for him. The state’s arcane law requires handwritten voter registration applications, and the registrar’s office in his county incorrectly read his last name as “Soloman.” Trouble ensued.
When he attempted to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot, his request was rejected because the registrar could not match his Social Security number with his (incorrectly spelled) name. While this administrative error was likely inadvertent and may be rectifiable before Election Day — unlike many of the obstacles American citizens can face in their effort to exercise their right to vote — Solomon is hardly alone in finding his participation in Election 2018 may take some extra effort.
And while the battle to make sure that no citizen is disenfranchised will play out now and in the future at the ballot box, in the courts, and in legislatures, Common Cause National Campaigns and Digital Director Jesse Littlewood told ThinkProgress, that there are several steps everyone can take to make sure their vote counts in the November 6 elections.
The first four steps, he said, are the most important:
- Have a plan to vote. “Research has shown people who have a plan to go to their polling place are much more likely to vote,” he said. “And that could be early, absentee, or going on November 6. Part of that plan is knowing your polling place. And knowing your fall-back options certainly helps.”
- Double-check your voter registration status now. “A number of tools online, like Common Cause, Rock the Vote, or your [state’s] Secretary of State,” he noted, can help you make sure you are registered to vote. “If it doesn’t pull up the way you’re expecting, you should contact your Secretary of State. Sometimes it’s that you registered but haven’t entered into the database on time.” And if you’re not registered, that may not be the end of the world. North Dakota does not have voter registration at all and several states let you register on Election Day.
- Know the laws for your state and community. The non-partisan Election Protection Coalition has a hotline (866-OUR-VOTE or 866-687-8683) and a website, Littlewood notes, with all the information a voter should need to know, including what identification you’ll need and what early voting opportunities are in each state.
- If something seems off, ask for help immediately. The 866-OUR-VOTE hotline is already open and will be Monday through Friday until the election is over. They can connect you with trained volunteers who are familiar with the voting laws in your state and can help resolve issues that might arise. Alternately, you can text “ELECTIONPROTECTION” to 97779 and get questions answered that way. If English is not your primary language, the same coalitions are operating a Spanish-language hotline (888-VE-Y-VOTA or 888-839-8682); a hotline for speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog (888-API-VOTE or 888-274-8683); an Arabic-language hotline (844-YALLA-US or 844-925-5287) and a video-call number for American Sign Language (301-818-VOTE or 301-818-8683).
Beyond sharing this information with family, friends, and anyone else you met, anyone interested in helping with voter protection can volunteer as a non-partisan poll monitor in their community.
Finally, if ensuring the right to vote is important to you, he notes that Common Cause has surveyed hundreds of candidates about where they stand on issues about democracy, voting rights, and ballot access. That information is available on their Democracy 2018 site.
As for Solomon, Littlewood said, he “should call 866-OUR-VOTE. He will be connected to a volunteer trained about the specifics of New Jersey election law. Many are legal professionals, lawyers, paralegals and law students. They’re they best and fastest,” to help him “solve this kind of challenge.”