There are some people who like to make it harder than necessary for others to vote. Voter-caging practices have already taken hold in this election. It was rumored that the Michigan GOP planned to use a list of foreclosed houses to bar those residents from voting. But with the way these things work, the damage may already have been done if someone who has lost their house is discouraged from showing up.
In Virginia, students who tried to register to vote using their campus addresses were presented with faulty guidelines telling them that they could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, that they would be dropped from their parents’ insurance coverage and that they would lose their scholarships. In New Jersey, voters have been told, wrongly, that they were not registered after a flood of registration forms were submitted to the clerk’s office.
Faced with all these shady situations, and so many more, how can voters make sure they are ready to vote?
If you’re at least 18 and a U.S. citizen, you’re ready to register. And the rush is on. The place to register is with your local county or city elections clerk. Several Web sites including Rock the Vote and Vote411 provide voters with registration forms online that can then be submitted to their local clerks. It can take up to three weeks for you to receive your voter card in the mail.
Since each state has its own voting and registering roadmaps, it is important to pay attention to state guidelines, located on the secretary of state’s Web site. Registration deadlines are around the corner; the first ones—Alaska, Rhode Island, South Carolina—occur during the first week of October.
Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming are the only states that allow citizens to register on Election Day.
Already registered? Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia allow citizens to vote early, by mail or in person. Voting early by mail, or absentee voting, is common for college students, older citizens and those who cannot make it to their designated poll on Election Day.
Don’t fall into one of those groups? Thirty-one of those states have no-excuse voting, where you can vote early, in person, without a reason. So, to avoid long lines and potential hassles on Election Day, depending on state regulations, early voting might be the best bet.
So, there it is. On Election Day, go to the polls, pick a candidate and look forward to January 20, 2009 with glee or fear.