Election Day Do’s & Don’ts

This is a great summary for Tuesday!

Election Day Do’s & Don’ts

By: Travis Fain – Contact Reporter     tfain@dailypress.com

November 6, 2016, 7:48pm

So, a major presidential candidate has said he may not accept Tuesday’s election results and called on followers to keep a close eye on the polls.

Let’s go over Virginia’s Election Day rules, shall we?

For starters, poll watching is a normal, every-election thing. It happens inside the polling place. Republicans and Democrats put volunteers into precincts to quietly watch election workers, who are often volunteers also recruited by the parties.

Only people who are approved by the local board or are going in to vote are allowed inside a precinct, though there is an exception for media.

Neither poll watchers nor election workers are allowed to tell voters how to vote. Anyone needing assistance to vote must fill out a form. Election workers can then help them. Poll watchers may not.

There’s no campaigning and no campaign signs allowed within 40 feet of a polling place.

Guns, concealed or open-carried, are allowed at any polling place where they’re not normally banned. For example: Guns are banned every day of the year at schools and courthouses.

Gesturing toward a gun in a menacing manner or brandishing it in an effort to scare someone is a crime. Intimidating or interfering with a voter coming to or going from the polls is a crime.

You must bring photo ID to vote. You may bring sample ballots and campaign materials into a polling place, but you can’t show them to other voters.

Voting machines do not connect to the internet. They are tested, tagged and secured ahead of Election Day. After the day’s voting, cards are taken from the machines and transported to elections offices, where results are inputted and sent to the state.

Poll watchers may stay as election officials close down the voting machines, but they’re not allowed to touch a ballot, voting machine or official document.

Thousands of people are involved in Virginia elections, which are overseen by the state Board of Elections and local elections boards. Each of these boards has three appointed members, with two coming from the governor’s party and one from the opposing party.

Most of Virginia uses optical scan machines, where you fill in a bubble to vote on a paper ballot. Some localities use touch screens. Locally, that would be Mathews, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Surry, Sussex and Charles City.

Sometimes these touch screens register the opposite of a voter’s intent, which election officials typically blame on calibration issues. Any problems like this should be brought to an election official’s attention.

The General Assembly has forbidden localities from buying any more touch-screen machines but has not banned them from using the ones they already own.

Poll watchers and any other voter may challenge a person’s right to vote. To do so, they sign a form attesting, “subject to penalties for hindering, intimidating, or interfering with a qualified voter,” that the challenged voter is not qualified to vote or has already voted in this election.

If a challenged voter then signs his or her own statement, attesting that they are qualified to vote, they are allowed to. It’s a felony to lie on this form.

Voter intimidation is broadly defined in state and federal code, which say it’s illegal to “hinder, intimidate, or interfere with any qualified voter.” It’s a Class 1 misdemeanor under state law, the most serious sort of misdemeanor.

Voting twice and other forms of voter fraud are felonies.

Voters may wear campaign buttons, shirts and the like to their polling places. Poll watchers and election workers may not. Voters may also take “selfies” — pictures of themselves with their ballots.

There is some concern that people taking pictures will slow the lines on Election Day.

Poll watchers may use cellphones in precincts but may not take pictures. No one is supposed to take a picture that shows how someone else voted.

Anyone in line at 7 p.m. must be allowed to vote. An official may come outside and stand at the back of the line at 7 p.m. to cap the line.

Fain may be reached by phone at 757-525-1759.

Election Day resources

Problems and questions can always be directed to local election officials, or to the state Department of Elections, but several outside groups staff hot lines on Election Day.

If you see news: Call the Daily Press, 757-247-4730, or report it online at dailypress.com.

The American Civil Liberties Union Virginia hot line: 804-644-8080 or acluva@acluva.org.

The William & Mary Law School’s Election Law Society hot line: 757-221-2890. Law students will staff the phones.

Election Protection’s hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE. In Spanish at 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA.

Allegations of fraud or intimidation can be made to the U.S. Department of Justice at 703-299-3700 before 8:30 a.m. and at 757-441-6331 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can also be sent to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section at 1-800-253-3931 or by emailing voting.section@usdoj.gov.

Copyright © 2016, Daily Press

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