Voter Protection Training
by Giovanni Randazzo, @ISDVF
As we head into Election Day, it is never too early to familiarize ourselves with Election Day tips. And considering that the Governor has promised the greatest Election Day ground game ever, we as Democrats must remain vigilant and be prepared to assist in protecting the rights of voters. The following will be a brief overview of election protection. I urge every Chairman to find at least one attorney (more in larger counties obviously) willing to volunteer time on Election Day to assist in election protection and together with the various campaign organizations, we can provide training. As we get closer to Election Day, we will have a hotline numbers that will provide various types of assistance from campaigns, the Attorney General, the State Board of Elections, and such.
I always start my Election Day lawyer training with this tip. Remember to be nice, polite and courteous to elections officials. Not only will it assist you with making your point, but elections judges have the authority to arrest anyone who breaches the peace and getting arrested (or even the threat of) will not likely assist our cause of protecting voters’ rights.
Properly credentialed poll watchers may access the polling place to ensure the integrity of the voting process. Each candidate is permitted to have up to two poll watchers in a polling place, but by a majority vote the election judges may limit the number of people at any given time but at all times they must at least allow one Democrat and one Republican poll watcher to remain. Poll watchers may sit or stand close enough to the judges to visually examine the voter’s ballot application to compare the signature on the application with that on the signature verification record, and to observe the judge initialing the ballots. They may also watch the ballots being deposited into the ballot box and observe the general conduct of the election. Poll watchers shall be permitted to observe all proceedings and view all reasonable requested records relating to the conduct of the election, provided the secrecy of the ballot is not impinged. However, they cannot touch any supplies or materials or be so close to the judges that they interfere with the orderly conduct of the election. If you find that the other side is packing polling places (specifically good Democratic polling places) with poll watchers and/or those individuals are being disruptive or intimidating in anyway, have your poll watcher or attorney ask the election judges to maintain order in the polling place. If that does not work, a quick call to the election authority might.
Another area where we may find Republican voter suppression is in and beyond the campaign free zone. As you all know, no active electioneering, campaigning, or solicitation of votes by a candidate, candidates or party workers is permitted within the polling place or within the 100-foot campaign free zone of the polling place. The campaign free zone is 100 feet from the door of the polling place; however, churches, private schools, or privately owned buildings may designate the entire property (even if it more than 100 feet from the polling room). The election judges determine the boundaries of the campaign free zone. Electioneering includes leafleting or wearing campaign buttons, badges, t-shirts, or hats asking voters to vote a particular way. In recent years, Republicans have used a number of tactics to scare off voters, i.e. dressing people as FBI agents or other law enforcement figures and having them stand near the 100-foot line or stationing people at the line who call out or harass voters as they enter. These situations are clear voter suppression; the election judges and authority (and the Attorney General) should be alerted immediately.
An election judge, a poll watcher, or a voter may challenge a person’s right to vote by stating a specific reason for such challenge. The judges, by majority decision, have the sole power to sustain or overrule a challenge. Reasons for challenging include the following:
- The voter no longer resides at the address at which he/she is registered.
- The person attempting to vote is not the same person registered.
- The person attempting to vote has already voted.
- The person attempting to vote is not registered to vote.
If a majority of the judges sustain the challenge, the voter must be informed of their right to receive a provisional ballot. If a majority of the judges overrule the challenge, the voter will continue to vote as if no challenge had been made. I expect that we will see an uptick in voter challenges this Election because such actions make the lines longer and frustrate the voter being challenged and those waiting which leads to voters giving up.
In recent years, the Republicans have begun using Voter ID laws to suppress the vote in many parts of the county and have tried to push such laws and rules here, but Illinois has not enacted such laws or rules. In Illinois, a voter is not required to show ID at a polling place. There are some situations that may require the voter to show ID, i.e. there is no record of the voter or if the voter is marked as “inactive”. Watch how the election judges interact with voters, if it appears the judges are unnecessarily asking voters to provide identification or if they are challenging multiple voters please call because there could be voter suppression tactics at play.
These are some basic tips that every County Chairmen and Precinct Committeemen should be aware of. There will be more information released as we get closer to the November Election. If you have any specific questions or concerns, you can contact the IDCCA.