The U.S. is days away from the midterm elections, which will be held on Nov. 8. Midterm elections are federal elections that are held every two years in between presidential elections.
Here at VERIFY, our mission is to stop the spread of misinformation, which includes answering common questions surrounding the voting process. A VERIFY viewer who recently broke their leg asked about options for assistance at the polls.
This reporting is part of a series of stories ahead of the midterm elections. If you have any questions about the elections, email us at email@example.com or message us on social media @verifythis.
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If you need assistance, can someone else help you vote?
Yes, anybody who needs assistance can get help casting a vote during any election. A variety of federal laws protect this right.
WHAT WE FOUND
During every election, anyone who needs assistance in order to vote has the right to ask for help, including requesting accessible voting materials or bringing a helper to the polls.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of disability, race, color, or other protected identities. The VRA gives every voter the right to bring someone of their choice into the voting booth if they need help voting – this can either be one or more poll workers or someone the voter knows. This helper cannot be the voter’s employer, or affiliated with the voter’s employer.
According to Disability Rights Washington, some ways a helper can assist include confirming the voter is registered, that the right machine is being used or asked for and requesting an alternative ballot (i.e. one that includes large print or is in Braille).This person can also mark a ballot on behalf of the voter if requested.
Poll workers help voters understand the voting process and also can help show someone how to use a voting machine. If someone needs curbside assistance, meaning they physically can’t enter a polling station, poll workers will bring the voter a poll book to sign, a ballot, and any other voting materials needed to cast a ballot privately and independently, according to the Election Assistance Commission.
What someone can’t do is sign your name on the ballot for you. According to Disability Rights California (DRC), if you are unable to sign your name, you can make a mark or use a signature stamp. Your helper then can write your name next to the signature, and then should write their own name somewhere near the signature line.
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Congress passed several other laws that spell out more protections specifically for elderly and disabled voters.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote, and that tools or accessibility equipment are in place to help someone vote.
The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA) requires polling places for federal elections be accessible for people with disabilities and other mobility issues. If there isn’t an accessible location, voters must be provided an alternate means of voting on Election Day.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) mandates elected officials to provide at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities at each polling place in federal elections. The person must still be able to vote privately and independently on this machine. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) this is typically a machine that can read the ballot to you and let you vote by pushing buttons.
Also, a “voter with a mental disability cannot be turned away from the polls because a poll worker thinks they are not ‘qualified’ to vote,” according to the ACLU.
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Here is a list of things to do at the polling place if you need help. These also apply to people who might not speak English:
- You can bring a family member, friend, or another person of your choice to assist you at the polls.
- If you bring a person to assist you, let the poll workers know that when you check in. The person might need to swear under oath or sign a waiver acknowledging they are helping.
- Tell election officials what you need mentally or physically at the polling place, like if you need a chair or any other assistance.
- If you are not able to enter your polling place because the pathway to it is not fully accessible, ask poll workers for curbside assistance.
- If you have difficulty using the materials provided to make your ballot selections, review, or cast your ballot, let a poll worker know.
You can call a nonpartisan team of volunteers at the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE to report any issues you might have at the polling place. Non-English hotlines:
- Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
- Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287
- English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683.
- Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese): 1-888-API-VOTE / 1-888-274-8683.