Preparing to Vote

Where to Go:

Look on the voting information you received from your local elections office to find the address of your polling place, or call your local election office. If you cannot reach your local elections office, you can check your polling place online. While they are doing their best to keep this information updated, it is the official list at your elections office that determines your true polling place, so we recommend checking directly with your local government if possible.

What to Bring:

Required Items:

Photo ID is required for voting in some states and CANNOT be required in others.

Check here to find what ID is required in your state.

Recommended Items in Case of Problems:

Written documentation of your voter registration, including address of your polling place.

The phone number of your local elections office.

A smartphone, or video camera and cell phone, if possible, if allowed by law in your state.

If Possible, Plan to Go to the Polls with a Small Group.

Bring a family member or neighbor (or several)

Planning to vote together will help ensure that everyone makes it to the polls

Voting in a group also provides witnesses should anything go wrong.


Vote on a Paper Ballot

As illustrated in STEALING AMERICA: Vote by Vote, electronic counting of votes is unreliable. When votes are cast on an electronic voting machine (such as a touchscreen machine), there is no way to verify that the machine count is correct. When votes are cast on paper, verification of the official totals becomes possible. Ask to vote on a paper ballot if your polling place has them.

Hand-Deliver Your Absentee Ballot

We recommend that you vote on Election Day and at your assigned polling place if possible. However, if voting absentee is the only option you have for voting on a paper ballot, hand-deliver your ballot it if you can. When ballots are mailed, the chain of custody is broken. Ballots that arrive before election day are generally processed with insufficient community oversight. Look at the instructions that come with the ballot to determine your options for delivering the ballot.

Voting on a Provisional Ballot

Only vote on a provisional ballot if absolutely necessary.

Provisional ballots have a reduced chance of being counted. And counting of provisional ballots happens days or weeks after the election, nearly always after election results have been announced. If at all possible, demand a regular ballot.

If you cannot obtain a regular ballot, carefully follow the instructions about completing the provisional ballot and the accompanying envelope. Ask for help from a poll worker if you need it. Make sure you find out if you must take additional steps, such as proving your residency, and how to follow up to learn whether or not your vote was counted.

If you are told that you must vote on a provisional ballot and you believe this is incorrect, call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Don't Vote "Straight Party Ticket"

In past elections in some states, the machines were programmed to respond to the “straight party ticket selection” by not registering a vote for president. Even if you plan to cast all your votes for candidates in one party, mark your selection for each race separately instead of using just one button or bubble.

Help Other Voters Get to the Polls

One concrete thing you can do is help people get to the polls to vote. For more info contact:

Carpool Vote

Carpool Vote connects volunteer drivers with anybody who needs a ride to claim their vote.

Carpool2Vote App

Carpool2Vote is a free rideshare app that introduces volunteer drivers to voters needing a ride to the polls.


Monitor Local Elections & Procedures

1. Observe poll opening/set-up procedures.

You will most likely upset the poll workers and make them very nervous. Must be able to get up very early in the morning. If your county or jurisdiction is using new equipment for the first time, this is a time when lots of problems happen that would be good to document.

2. Observe voting at the polls.

Best done as a poll worker.

3. Observe poll closing.

Here is your chance to get the fresh data on results, to see if there are reconcile problems between number of votes and number of people who signed into to vote, etc. All of the above reasons, especially #1 and very important for reconcile. Be sure to arrive no later than five minutes before the polls close, so you will be allowed inside. Bring a camera. Find out in advance what you can photograph or film, and do it. If possible, photograph the vote totals on poll tapes, the end-of-day reports, and other documentation. These can later be compared to official results.

Community Involvement is Key in Protecting Our Elections

Elections are conducted on a local level, even though governed by state and federal laws. So while the crisis in the U.S. election system is a national one, many effective solutions can be carried out locally. Community monitoring of elections can only be done on a local level. Resources on this site have been designed to help you choose the most effective projects to undertake in your community and learn how to do them.

The example you set through public education and leadership will enable others to recognize the dangers we face and join the struggle for election justice.

Monitoring an election means providing community oversight of the processes and procedures that guide OUR elections, as they are conducted by employees of OUR government.

In this era of stolen elections and violations of laws requiring elections to be conducted in a transparent manner, We the People cannot afford to sit back and assume that elections are being run in a manner that protects the accuracy and validity of the vote.

The majority of election officials and their staff members are honest, hard-working people committed to our democracy. Yet even their eyes cannot be everywhere at once. Monitoring is key in both preventing and detecting many problems that could even be serious enough to alter the outcome of an election.

What Can Monitoring Accomplish?

1. Community election monitoring is a deterrent to some nefarious activity. Just the knowledge that they are being watched, especially being watched by a knowledgeable observer, can deter people from illegal activity.

2. Monitoring is a deterrent to sloppy behavior. Elections officials and poll workers will be more vigilant knowing they are being watched and their mistakes could be publicized.

3. Monitors sometimes catch errors that can be corrected immediately by elections officials. See below for a powerful example.

4. Information gathered can be used to improve future elections.

5. Monitors can make incident reports to election protection hotlines such as 1 (866) OUR-VOTE, adding their findings to thousands of comments aggregated and analyzed for patterns of election anomalies.

6. Community monitoring efforts can provide the basis for challenges to elections, including recounts initiated by the public or by candidates. Recount and challenge laws vary by state.

How Has Monitoring Been Successful?

Election monitoring has uncovered problems leading to changes in election procedures. Read about a powerful example from the 2016 California Presidential Primary election.

What Can I Do to Get Started?

Volunteer with Citizens' Oversight Projects to help organize monitors and observers.

Volunteer with Election Protection in your community to help ensure eligible voters are able to participate in our democracy while collecting data for meaningful reform so that our elections are free, fair, and accessible.

Work With Your Local Elections Official/Department

Ensure that they’re using best practices. Encourage them to use these tools:

Polling Place Resource Planner

Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool

Learn who runs the elections in your state and in your county, parish, or other local jurisdiction.

As an election monitor, you'll need to collect many types of information about how your local elections are conducted. It's important to begin with some understanding of the functions of election officials so you'll have a clearer idea of where to look for the information you need.

The Secretary of State (SoS) in most states is responsible for elections. Search for the website of your SoS or other statewide elections office.

• Visit your SoS website and find the fraud hotline/incident reporting. Bookmark the page.

• Call the SoS's office and ask for the election code references on observing and monitoring.

The county (or similar jurisdiction) actually runs the elections. The head official is likely to have one of these titles:

• County Clerk

• County Clerk Recorder

• County clerk Recorder Registrar

• Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk

• County Auditor/Clerk/Recorder

• Registrar of Voters

Call your local elections office and ask:

• If they have an election incident reporting system.

• If they have a timeline of activities they are working on leading up to the election

• If they have any written guidelines on election monitoring and observation.

Find out what kind of equipment your county or jurisdiction uses to vote.

Choosing and prioritizing monitoring activities will depend on many factors, including state laws and the type of voting equipment used in your area.

What kind of voting machines will you be monitoring? Check The Verifier, a tool prepared by VerifiedVoting.org. Call your county or jurisdiction to confirm that the information is up-to-date.

Help Protect The Election

Videotape (voting, counting, chain of custody). Rules vary state by state about what you can videotape. Be sure to check your state's laws before photographing or recording at a polling place.

Problems At the Polls?

In general, problems should first be addressed by talking with the poll workers. If further action is needed, options include calling your local elections office and/or the Election Protection Hotline:

English: 866-OUR-VOTE/866ourvote.org

Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA/veyvota.yaeshora.info

Asian Languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi, and Bengali): 888-API-VOTE/apiavote.org

What if ...

... machines stop working while you are at the polls?

Demand they be taken out of service (record the serial number of the machine if possible). If you have a video camera, videotape the response of the poll worker. At the very least, write down their response if they will not take the machine from service, and write down a few names and phone numbers of others present as witnesses.

... machines visibly flip your vote or present other problems?

Demand they be taken out of service (record the serial number of the machine if possible) The polling place is now a crime scene. The voting machines should be 'quarantined,' and law enforcement summoned. Call the election protection hotline 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

... your polling place has run out of paper ballots?

Call your local elections office. If you cannot reach them or the problem does not get resolved this way, call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

... your polling place is not open during official voting hours?

Call your local elections office. If you cannot reach them or the problem does not get resolved this way, call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

... the line is so long that you can't stay?

If you are able to come back later, please do so. If you are able to travel to your county election office, you may be able to vote there, but it's important to call first to check. Either way, call your local elections office. If you cannot reach them or the problem does not get resolved this way, call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

... the line is so long that others are leaving?

If you have a video camera, take video. Call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. You might also call local news stations. Talk with voters who are leaving. Give them the phone number of the election protection hotline and ask them to call to report their complaints. If you are able to stay to assist, please do so. What will be needed will vary in each situation.

... the line is so long you won't reach the front by poll closing time?

If you are in line by the time the official poll closing time, the polling place is legally required to stay open until you vote. At the time the polls close, a poll worker should come to the end of the line to determine which voters have already arrived and must be allowed to vote.

... there is more than one line and I don't know which is the right one?

Look on the voting materials you have brought with you to see if there is a precinct number, then try to determine which line is for your precinct. If you need to walk to the front of the line to determine what line to be in, do so; then go back to the end of the correct line. If you still cannot tell, try to ask a poll worker, call your local elections office, or call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

… your polling place or provided voting technology is not accessible to you?

Although the Help America Vote Act requires all polling places to have some accessible equipment, this equipment is not accessible to voters with all disabilities and combinations of disabilities. Additionally, the equipment may break down. Polling places themselves can be made inaccessible by construction or other unforeseen changes. You have the right to have assistance, either from someone you bring with you or from a pollworker (your choice). A pollworker who helps you is required to give you the help you need without attempting to influence your choices. If you do not get the help you need, including access to the polling place itself, call your local elections office. If you still need more help, call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

... you are told you must vote on a provisional ballot?

If you disagree, call your local elections office and/or the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. If you and the poll workers are unable to resolve the problem and you must vote provisionally, make sure you follow the directions carefully for filling out both the provisional ballot itself and the provisional ballot envelope. You will have to provide your name and other identifying information on the outside envelope. Election workers are required to use this information to verify your registration and determine whether or not your vote will be counted before opening the envelope. You may be given instructions about how to document your valid voter registration. Follow these instructions carefully, which may include going to the elections office immediately after the election to show your ID or provide other required information.

... you are told you are not at the right polling place or precinct?

Check the official election materials that were mailed to you, if you have them with you. They should list your precinct number and polling place location. If you are at the wrong polling place, you can leave and go to the correct one, although you will need to stand in line again. If you are convinced you are at the right place but the poll worker says you are not, you can local elections office. You may be required to vote on a provisional ballot.

... people are at the polls "challenging" voters' right to vote?

Call the local office of the political party whose voters are being harassed, or call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

... you hear a poll worker giving out incorrect information?

Talk to the elections judge or poll worker in charge at your polling place, or local elections office. If you cannot reach them or the problem does not get resolved this way, call the election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.