What to Do if You're Turned Away at the Polls

Last week, reports came out that because of Georgia's "exact match" law, 53,000 residents of the state who registered to vote have had their registration marked as "pending," raising questions about whether or not those voters will be allowed to cast their ballots in this year's election. An analysis of the pending applications by The Associated Press showed that they overwhelmingly belong to African American applicants. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia responded to the news by ensuring Georgians that the "pending" status does not prohibit them from voting if they have proper identification.

Early voting already has begun in Georgia, and the voter registration deadline has already passed. Since many applicants were unaware that the exact match law applied to them, many don't know that their voter registration wasn't approved. They are still legally allowed to vote.

Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia said:

The Secretary of State’s Office has confirmed that if your voter registration application is deemed ‘pending’ because of the exact match law, you can still cast a regular ballot IF you provide photo identification at the polls, which substantially reflects the name you used on your voter registration form. Though the ACLU of Georgia strongly opposes the discriminatory exact-match law passed by Georgia politicians, we must focus on ensuring that all registered voters come out to vote. We reiterate that all voters who have pending registration applications can still cast a regular ballot by presenting photo identification.

The placing of the registrations under pending status was carried out under the direction of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running for governor against Stacey Abrams, who would become the first African American and first woman to become Georgia's governor.

During his time as secretary of state, Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations, including nearly 670,000 in 2017 alone. Kemp is far from the only Republican enforcing such laws. Since 2014, more than 16 million voters have been purged from voting rolls across the country. The systems used to purge voters often remove valid voters from the rolls, for instance, a study of a 2016 Arkansas voter purge found that thousands of voters had been falsely purged. And that doesn't even get into the validity of the laws in the first place, most of which were strenuously opposed by civil rights organizations.

So what can you do if you have been falsely targeted by one of these purges?

It depends on the state you live in, but here are the steps you can take in any state to make sure you can vote in this election:

  1. Check your registration now. While the voter registration deadline has passed in many states, it is still important that you double-check and make sure you are still properly registered to vote. Plus, 17 states allow for Election Day registration—check here to see if your state is one of them.

  2. Find your polling place before Election Day. You can be turned away if you attempt to vote at the wrong location, so make sure that you know where to go. You should also be aware of the polling place hours and make sure that you arrive before they close. Remember that if you are in line at the time the polling location is set to close, you still have the right to vote and they cannot legally turn you away. Call the nonpartisan hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE if you run into any problems.

  3. Make sure you have the required voter identification with you when you vote. Different states have different standards about what identification they will accept, so make sure to check in advance. Check now, that way if you don't have the required identification, you may have time to obtain it before Election Day.

  4. Vote early if that option is available. If you have been falsely removed from the rolls, you will find out sooner rather than later and can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE to connect with a voter protection volunteer who can help you figure out what to do next.

  5. If you are not on the voting rolls at your precinct or are turned away, election officials are required to give you a provisional ballot. (Some states call it a “challenge ballot” or an “affidavit ballot.”) Ask for one and request a receipt or other information about what you need to do to be sure your vote is counted.

  6. If you have any problems that you can't work out, call the toll-free, nationwide, nonpartisan hotline 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) and talk to a trained volunteer for voting assistance.

You can learn more about your local laws and find other election protection news and information at 866OurVote.org.