The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, October 31, 2004  

Prepare for Crowds, Pass the Time
Help Your Fellow Kerry-Edwards Voters

This evening a reader sent along some interesting thoughts about Election Day that are worth keeping in mind heading toward -- and on -- Tuesday. I've incorporated the reader's suggestions with some of my own below:


Ignore the polls: The latest batch of polls can be interpreted or spun any which way. Ignore them, no matter where you live, no matter which candidate is "ahead" in your state, and no matter by how much. Just vote.

Check your paperwork: If you are required to bring identification make sure -- tonight, tomorrow at the latest -- you have everything in order. Find, study, and take along, if necessary, a sample ballot.

Find your polling place: Know where you are supposed to vote. If you don't know or aren't sure, a good place to find or confirm your location is My Polling Place. [Or try My Pollling Site.]

Know your rights: A good place to check your voting rights is the Election Protection web site: Our Vote. Don't be rattled or distracted by reports of intimidation; rest assured there are plenty of people working night and day, at, around, near, and away from your polling place, to make sure you can exercise your right to vote.

Prepare for a long wait: You may find yourself in line for three hours or longer, depending on activity in your precinct and the length of the ballot in your area. Mental preparation will help. Don't let the anticipation of a heavy turnout or any other news reports dissuade you from voting on Tuesday.

Check the weather report: Check your local weather forecast. Dress accordingly. Bring an umbrella if needed and extra umbrellas if you have them.

Time your vote if you can: Plan ahead by setting aside enough time to vote. It's usually better to plan to vote in the morning than in the evening. If you aren't working Tuesday, vote after the morning rush or before the evening rush to reduce lines for working people.

Pass the time: Bring reading material, including newspapers, magazines, and books, or video games, crossword puzzles, knitting, needlepoint, etc. Whatever works for you. Bring a lawn chair or folding chair if you need one.

Be patient: Relax and be patient. Take along a sandwich, fruit, snacks, candy bars, something to drink. Let the guy behind you bum a smoke if he needs one. Be civil and polite to everyone.

Stay in line: If you are still waiting in line when the polls close, stay right where you are: You are still entitled to vote. The door doesn't shut on waiting voters; the cut-off is the last person waiting in line.


Take your time: You waited your turn, now take the time you need. Don't rush yourself. Make sure you know how to properly operate the machines deployed in your area. Ask for help from poll workers if you need it. Make the right choice. Vote a straight Democratic ticket to save time for yourself and others.


Keep other Kerry voters in line: Do what you can to help other Kerry voters who may not have prepared sufficiently for a long wait. Encourage the tired, impatient, and frustrated to stay as long as it takes to vote. Here are some ideas:

    Bring extra reading material.
    Share your newspapers and magazines.
    Bring quarters for voters who need to make phone calls.
    Offer your cell phone if needed.
    Buy bags of Halloween candy (Half-price on Monday!) to share with people waiting to vote.
    Offer to watch kids.
    Lend an extra umbrella if it's raining.
    Time voters' progress so those in line have an accurate idea of how long they must wait.
    Hold a place in line for someone who needs to make a phone call or return home for I.D.

Get out the vote: Check with your family, friends, neighbors, and others supporting Kerry-Edwards. Remind them, ask them, nag them to vote. Offer to drive Kerry-Edwards voters to their polling places. Mind their children, house-sit, pet-sit, water their plants.

Finally, if you believe your rights may have been violated, check with the poll workers for procedures to follow to file a complaint. If you are told you cannot vote at a particular polling place but believe you are entitled to do so, try to determine where you are supposed to be. There will be plenty of Democratic Party representatives near the polling place to assist you. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot, but should do so only as a last resort.

Complaints of voter intimidation, suppression, and fraud that are serious enough to require immediate legal intervention may be directed to 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-866-MYVOTE1 or 1-877-523-2792. These phone lines are expected to be busy; tap local resources, including those near the polling place, before calling.

[Post-publication addendum (November 1): Similar recommendations appeared in Monday's Philadelphia Daily News in "Your Survival Guide for Election Day."]

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