What to do if your vote is disputed on Election Day

(Conversation) – As the general election approaches, it is important to know your rights in case your vote is contested.

The best way to make sure your voice counts is to advocate for yourself. I am a civil rights attorney and lecturer for the University of Southern California’s Undergraduate Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative, Agents of Change. Here are some simple ways to ensure your vote is counted and two practical remedies you can consider if your vote remains contested.

The biggest part of making sure you’re able to vote is making the necessary preparations before you even get to the polling place.

Are you registered to vote? Check it out

Before you vote, you must make sure you are registered to vote. You can check your registration status using this tool. If you cannot use the online tool, call your local elections office or a voter helpline such as those listed in the helpline section below.

If you find that you are not registered, you can use this tool from the National Conference of State Legislatures to find your state’s online registration application. If you need to do this in person, call your local elections office for instructions.

At this point, you may have missed your state’s voter registration deadline. But it may not be too late to register.

Many states allow same-day registration at the polling place. You can find detailed same-day voting laws in your state here. Request a same-day registration form from a poll worker at the right polling station; fill out the form and then request a “conditional vote”. Conditional voting allows election officials to count your vote after confirming that you are eligible to vote. If you can’t research online, you can call your local election office to find out if you can register on Election Day.

Collect documents to confirm your identity

Voter ID laws generally cover in-person voting, not absentee ballots or mail-in ballots.

If you live in a state that requires ID verification to vote in person, collect the necessary documents—which can range from driver’s licenses to bank statements with identification information—before you go to the actual polling place. You can find contact information for your county election office here. This Web page includes a table listing each state’s acceptable IDs and possible exceptions for some people. You can also call your local elections office to find out what is required.

Find the exact polling location

This way you can ensure that you go to the right polling station tool. Or call your county election office to find out your polling station and its opening hours; you can look up contact information for your county’s election office here.

Once you know your polling station and its opening hours, you can go there and register. In most cases, you will be given a ballot, shown where to vote and asked to put your ballot into the machine or box, and then you can go on your merry way.

But at the time of application, things can go wrong.

Problems at your polling station

Here are potential voting challenges and ways to overcome them.

Possibility #1: Out-of-order voting machines.

If you are asked to leave because of malfunctioning machines, don’t. Ask for a paper ballot instead.

Option #2: You’re in line and officials announce that the polls are closed.

If you are in line at the polling station before it closes, don’t let yourself be turned away at closing time if you haven’t voted. You have a legal right to vote in those circumstances, then stay in line and wait to cast your vote.

Possibility #3: You are not on the list of registered voters.

If you are told that you cannot vote because your name is not on the electoral roll, ask the poll worker to check again and to check the name of the list of supplementary voters. If they still can’t find your name, ask the interviewer to confirm you’re in the right location.

Possibility #4: Someone claims you shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

If your right to vote remains contested after making sure you are at the right polling station, request that a provisional vote be taken, which is available in every state except Idaho and Minnesota. You can find details about your state’s temporary voting rules here.

Track your provisional ballot here.

Call the hotline

If you have not been given a provisional ballot, call the Elections Hotline for help. Here are four phone lines run by non-party members Coalition for the Protection of Electionsit may help you:

English: 866-OUR-VOTE/866-687-8683, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA/888-839-8682, Education Fund of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

Asian Languages: 888-API-VOTE/888-274-8683, Voting for Asian and Pacific Americans

Arabic: 844-YALLA-US/844-925-5287, Arab American Institute

Report voter intimidation

If someone tries to intimidate you into voting or not voting for a candidate, stand your ground and demand a vote at the polls, call the hotline above to report the intimidation and file a claim with the FBI later by phone at 800-CALL -FBI – 800-225-5324 – or online at

File a lawsuit

If you’re still blocked from voting, consider legal action – but get advice about your exact situation from one of the hotlines, which have free lawyers. It’s a good idea to write down the names of the people who stopped you from voting and to ask the people who witnessed the incident for their contact information.

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