Election 2016: Know Your Voter Rights

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Voters in other states are reporting concerns about possible harassment and intimidation at the polls on Election Day. Here is a guide to help you, the voter, know your rights before you head to the polls. 

The following information was made available on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island website. To view the full voting rights guide, click here.  

Quick Tips for Voters

  • Check your voter registration status and locate your polling place by calling your local Board of Canvassers or going to http://vote.sos.ri.gov/.
  • Bring photo identification to the polls. However, if you do not have photo identification, you cannot be turned away and must be given a provisional ballot.
  • Take your time and read all instructions carefully. You have up to 10 minutes in the voting booth to cast your vote.
  • Ask for help if you need it.

What if someone tries to intimidate or harass me?

  • Tell a poll worker right away. If the poll worker is the problem, tell a poll watcher, call your local Board of Canvassers, or call one of the election hotline numbers listed at the end of this page. You also have the right to electronically record polling place activities, as long as it is done outside the enclosed voting area and does not hinder the election process. 

How do I make a complaint?

  • Ask the person in charge at your polling place. Candidates, political parties, and nonprofit groups may also have poll watchers at your polling place. If any of these people can’t resolve your complaint, call your local Board of Canvassers, the state Board of Elections, or the Secretary of State.
  • You can also call any one of the election hotline numbers listed below:
    • ACLU of Rhode Island: 831-7171
    • Rhode Island Secretary of State Elections Division: 222-2340

Who Can Vote?

  • To vote in a RI election, you must be registered to vote at least 30 days beforehand. If you are unregistered in a Presidential election year, you can still vote for President and Vice President at your local Board of Canvassers.
  • You can vote if you meet all of the following qualifications:
    • You’re a U.S. citizen;
    • You’ll be at least 18 years old on Election Day;
    • You’re a resident of Rhode Island;
    • You’re not incarcerated for a felony conviction; and
    • You haven’t been legally declared mentally incapable by a court.

What if I am disabled and my polling place is not accessible?

  • If you find this out before Election Day, call your local Board of Canvassers right away and ask for an alternative method of voting, such as an emergency mail ballot or reassignment to an accessible polling place. You have the right to an accessible polling place and an accessible voting machine.
  • On Election Day, you can bring one or more people to assist you. This can be anyone you choose as long as the person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your labor union. You will need to fill out an affidavit at the polling place.

Do I have to show ID?

  • Rhode Island law requires you to show photo identification in order to vote by regular ballot at the polls. However, if you do not have photo ID and want to vote at the polls, you cannot be turned away, and must instead be given a provisional ballot.
  • What are the accepted forms of photo ID?
    • Accepted forms of photo ID include a current and valid:
      • Rhode Island driver’s license;
      • Rhode Island voter ID card;
      • Rhode Island state or federal ID card;
      • U.S. passport;
      • U.S. military ID card;
      • Student ID card from an institution of higher education located in the United states; or
      • Government-issued medical card.

What if I don’t have any ID?

  • If you believe you are property registered and at the right polling place, you cannot be turned away because you lack ID. You can cast a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot will not be fed through the voting machine. Instead, you will fill it out and sign it. Once the polls close, the Board of Canvassers will review the ballot. The ballot will be counted if the signature you provided matches the one on your voter registration. When you vote at the polling place, you will be given information explaining how you can find out whether your vote was counted.

What if I’m not on the voter list?

  • Ask a poll worker to check the list again and confirm that you’re at the right polling place.
  • If you believe you’re at the right polling place but your name isn’t on the list, ask for a provisional ballot. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot as long as you’re willing to swear that you believe you are registered to vote.

What if I go to the wrong polling place?

Rhode Island Board of Elections Rules and Regulations for Polling Place Conduct

Section 5. Polling Place Conduct

A. Political Literature and Influence

1. Outside the Polling Place

No person shall be allowed to display or distribute any poster, paper, circular, or other document or item designed or tending to aid, injure, or defeat any candidate for public office or any political party on any question submitted to the voters within fifty (50) feet of the entrance or entrances to the building in which voting is conducted at any primary or election. No person shall conduct any form of poll or survey of voter opinion or voter conduct within a polling place or within fifty (50) feet from the entrance or entrances to any building in which voting is being conducted for any primary or election.

2. Inside the Polling Place

No person other than a voter in the act of voting may display or wear any political literature within the polling place. Any voter displaying or wearing any political literature who has completed the voting process must immediately exit the polling 2 location. No activity that is intended to interfere with a person’s right to vote, shall be permitted within a polling place.

B. Electronic Recording Devices in the Polling Place

Electronic recording of the election process is allowed inside the polling place as long as it is done outside of the railed or enclosed voting area. Electronic recording devices may not hinder the election process or compromise a voter’s right to cast a secret ballot by recording the specific votes(s) cast by any person.

(Taking selfies with your election ballot has become a court issue recently in other states, including a case in Colorado where a judge ruled the action was legal. According to the Board of Election’s new rules for the 2016 Election, selfies with a ballot are legal within the state of Rhode Island). 

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