Welcome to CA Voting 101–Lesson Four
What to Look for When Voting at the Polls
DID YOU KNOW that there are several procedures and circumstances called for in California and federal election law that significantly protect the voters’ right to a fair and honest access to a secret ballot, and a fair and honest process of voting? When these legal requirements are violated or ignored, the integrity of the election is compromised. Major protections prescribed by California law:
- Every effort should be made to make the polling place handicapped accessible. That includes providing a voting booth or machine specifically designated and modified for that purpose.
- Every voter MUST vote in privacy. Sharing of the voting booth for any reason other than assisting a handicapped voter is forbidden by law, and for a very good reason. If booths are shared by spouses, parents and adult children, or by any other combination of voters, the potential for voter intimidation is heightened. Not only does every voter deserve to vote without observation or supervision, the law requires it!! The only exception is if a voter specifically requests assistance and takes a verbal oath attesting to that necessity. Voters having sworn a need for aid may have up to two assistants of their own choosing with them in the booth; the helper may NOT be the voter’s employer or union representative.
Thanks to the advent of technology, voters with handicaps, whether they are physical or linguistic, can usually vote unassisted by using touchscreens or other voting technology. Voter intimidation is very real and not often obvious. For that reason, and because it is the law, there should be NO sharing of voting booths or machines unless handicapped assistance is being lawfully rendered.
- The law requires that booths and machines be arranged for maximum privacy in voting. The voters should be protected from the possibility of prying eyes on all four sides whenever the polling place allows for such an arrangement. Voters may NOT, by law, elect or be allowed to vote outside the confines of booth or machine (for example, at tables, on benches, at the check-in table, etc.).
- All voting booths and machines must be visible to the Election Board. None can be behind screens, dividers or walls.
- Electioneering is forbidden within 100 feet of the polling place. That includes political or partisan conversations, campaign signs, literature or apparel.
- The law demands that all voters STATE THEIR NAME AND ADDRESS ALOUD and have both repeated back to them. Since California does not require voters to provide any written identification, this is a very necessary procedure because it can discourage voter impersonation. Any shortcut in this procedure (reading name/address from any papers presented, stating voter’s address before the voter does, allowing voters to find their own name on the roster, etc.) SEVERELY damages the right of voters to cast their own ballot by facilitating voter impersonation.
- Blank ballots should be stored in such a manner that no unauthorized individual can easily gain access to them. They should not just be lying on a table or shelf that is unattended.
- In counties that use the traditional ballot box, voters should understand that only the poll workers can lawfully submit a ballot to the box. Voters should not be allowed to submit their own ballots, and the submission slot should be facing the poll worker, not the voter. This prohibits voters from being able to slip more than the one lawful ballot into the box, and protects the already-submitted ballots from potential damage from foreign items (leaky pens, sticky trash, etc.) that might be inserted by unscrupulous individuals or by children mistaking the box for a trash receptacle.
If you see something, say something! When you go to the polls to vote, be on the lookout. If something seems wrong, ask the Precinct Inspector to check into your concerns by consulting the Poll Worker training materials or making a call to the Elections Office Hotline. Election Integrity Project would appreciate a call from you as well. You can find our corporate hotline on our website. Knowing and insisting on these protections keeps all votes secure.