November 1, 2008

Trouble at the Polls?

Election Day in the 2008 Presidential race is less than one week away and early voting is already underway in 31 states. I urge you to exercise your right to vote by going to the polls this year. Every vote matters. Voting early may help you avoid the lines on Election Day and your vote counts the same as voting on Election Day.

Believe in the importance of voting and believe that it makes a difference in the work for Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning equality. People in elected offices make decisions that directly impact our ability to pass legislation that will protect you against discrimination and seek to decrease the violence our community faces. GLBTQ people, however, sometimes face discrimination at the polls. In order to help you exercise your right to vote, NCTE has reissued a Guide to Overcoming Voting Obstacles to help you overcome any barriers to voting that you encounter. The Guide also addresses additional challenges that some transgender voters face, such as racism, felony conviction and homelessness.

GLBTQ PEOPLE AND OUR VOTES. You have the right to vote! You are only required to provide enough information at the polls to prove that you are the person listed on the voting records; many states only require identification for first time voters. Note that in 13 states, there are more restrictive identification requirements, but even in these states, you should not be afraid to vote. If you live in one of these states (AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, MI, MO, NC, OH, PA, TX, VA), you can find specific useful information for your state from People for the American Way at

If your current appearance or name does not match the name listed on the voting records, bring copies of your current and old IDs, any court orders changing your name and gender, or physician letters. Do not provide more information than is necessary. You may be more comfortable voting early, where it is available, because the polls may be less crowded and you'll have more time to speak with poll workers about your particular situation. See the Guide to Overcoming Voter Obstacles for specific information and contact one of the hotlines below if you encounter problems.

YOUR RIGHTS Remember that you have the right to: Vote for any candidate you wish to. Get additional information, such as viewing a sample ballot and receiving instructions on how to vote, be assisted at the polls by the person of your choice if you need assistance in order to vote. Vote by provisional ballot if your name does not appear on the poll list or if you are denied a ballot; you are also entitled to written information about how to find out if your provisional vote was counted. A replacement ballot if you make a mistake or damage the ballot. Vote if you are in line when the polls close. In some jurisdictions, you are also entitled to written information and assistance in a language other than English.

VOTER REGISTRATION STILL OPEN IN SOME STATES. It's not too late for voters in some states. You can register at your voting place on Election Day in Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming. No voter registration is required in North Dakota, just go to the polls and vote. Registration is still open in Montana (deadline: November 3 or at the polls), North Carolina (deadline: November 1 at One Stop Voting sites), and Wisconsin (deadline: November 3 at 5 p.m.). Contact the Secretary of State's office in your state for additional information.

IF YOU ENCOUNTER A PROBLEM AT THE POLLS: If you are not on the rolls or are denied a ballot for any reason, request and complete a provisional ballot before leaving your polling place. The non-partisan Election Protection Coalition has a free hotline to provide you with assistance (administered by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law). 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-866-687-8683, Contact them right away for assistance. The Election Protection Coalition is made up of a wide range of groups including the NAACP, ACLU, American Bar Association, Asian American Justice Center, Common Cause, Native Vote, National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Council of Jewish Women, National Center for Lesbian Rights, United States Student Association and many more. If you have difficulties due to language barriers, contact: For assistance in Spanish, Llame a la línea de Protección de Elección: 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota or 1-888-839-8682, , administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund. Assistance in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Khmer is available from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund hotline at 1-800-966-5946. If you have difficulty voting because of a disability, you can contact 1-800-776-5746 (voice) and 1-800-781-4546 (TDD) for help and information. Another resource is: The US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, can be reached at 1-800-253-3931. Please feel free to pass this resource along to anyone who may need it. Encourage your friends and family to get out and vote this year.

See you at the Polls Tuesday!

Over and "Out" from Chesapeake (near Norfolk) VA

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