Tips to protect your vote and voter registration against glitches and hacking. (originally published before the 2018 midterms)
By Jennifer Cohn
Updated October 9, 2018
Note: I originally published this piece before the 2018 midterm elections. I decided to re-publish it because I can’t get the title to show on the original and the tips are applicable to future elections as well.
Protect your Voter Registration — applicable to all voters
- Expect these types of problems with your voter registration: (a) long lines due to voter registration issues, (b) widespread failure of electronic poll books, © being told at the polls that you aren’t registered at all, (d) being given a paper or electronic (touchscreen) ballot putting you into the wrong political Party or listing House races for the wrong voting District.
- To mitigate these problems, please do the following:
- Double check your voter registration several times before election day at https://www.vote411.org/
- Take a photo of your registration confirmation to use as proof in case you are later purged.
- Double check your polling place the day you plan to go to the polls.
- Bring provisions for long lines: Bring water, snacks, umbrellas and folding chairs for you and others who will be standing in line.
- Bring your driver’s license/ID and a recent utility bill (showing your current address) to the polls, even if your state does not technically require ID. You will need these things if you have to vote provisionally due to voter registration problems at the polls. (Do this Even if your state technically does not require voters to bring ID, More on this below.)
- Bring a photo of your registration confirmation to the polls.
- Bring your district-specific Sample Ballot to the polls: Go to your Secretary of State’s website and print your sample ballot. Make sure it has you registered for the correct party and in the correct House District. (If it doesn’t, raise hell with your Secretary of State’s office to get it fixed.) Fill it out and bring it to the polls.
- At the polls, compare the House District races listed on your sample ballot with those on the paper or electronic (touchscreen) ballot you are given to make sure they match. If they don’t, this could mean that your District has been fraudulently or mistakenly changed. Insist that poll workers give you the correct paper or electronic ballot so that you can vote for the correct House District races.
- If you are told at the polls that you are not registered at all, demand to vote with a provisional ballot. Contrary to what some claim, provisional ballots are counted! Again, though, if you don’t have your drivers license (or other ID) and a recent utility bill with you, you will have to come back with them later.
- Report problems: If you experience or observe voter registration problems or other voting related problems at the polls, report it to poll workers, contact local media, and call the Election Protection Hotline at 1–866-OUR-VOTE!
Protect your vote — applicable to all voters
- Bring the right type of ID to the polls: Check with your Secretary of State’s office or County Election Board to make sure you know what type of ID to bring.
- Bring provisions for long lines: Bring water, snacks, umbrellas, and folding chairs for you and others.
- Report problems: If you experience or observe problems voting or observing, try to get pictures. Alert poll workers, others in line, and the local media, and post on social media to alert others. Call the Election Protection Hotline at 1–866-OUR-VOTE.
Protect your vote — additional tips for voters in counties that use Touchscreens at the polls.
- Touchscreen voting machines & touchscreen ballot markers can cause many problems, including vote flipping, programming issues, widespread failures, long lines, and paper printouts that are too difficult to verify and audit (if paper printouts are provided at all).
- Find out if your county uses touchscreens for all voters: Call your county election board to find out if all or most voters will be expected to use a touchscreen voting machine or touchscreen ballot marker at the polls.
- If your county does plan to have all or most voters use touchscreens at the polls, here is what you should do (in addition to the previous tips applicable to all voters):
- See if you can request a hand marked ballot at the polls: Call your County Election Board and ask if your polling place will allow you to mark your ballot by hand. Even touchscreen counties sometimes allow this on request.
- Alternatively, try to vote by mail or absentee: Check this tool and map to see if you can vote by mail/absentee, in which case you must ask your County Election Board about the deadline to apply for this! http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx
* If you vote by mail/absentee, make sure to follow the instructions exactly, including as to signing the envelope and including your birth date on the envelope (if required per the instructions). Failure to do so will cause your ballot to be rejected.
* Make and keep a copy of your signed mail/absentee application and signed ballot envelope for your records.
* Make sure your mail/absentee ballot will be received by Election Day. If your County allows it (you must check), consider personally delivering it to the precinct or election office (you must ask your County which) on Election Day to avoid mail service and chain of custody problems.
* Keep track of the status of your mail/absentee application via your state or county election office. Some counties have been known to delay processing applications until after Election Day! Don’t let this happen to you.
* Keep track of the status of your completed & submitted mail/absentee ballot via your State or county election office. If it is rejected, find out why and see if you can cure the alleged problem in time to have your vote counted.
If you must use a touchscreen, here is what you should do:
- Vote early if you can: If you must use a touchscreen, vote early. That way, if the touchscreens fail, you will still have another chance to vote. Again, you can consult the above website and map to see if your state allows early voting. But make sure to check with your County Election Board for the applicable dates and deadlines!
- Print and fill out your Sample Ballot to bring to the polls as a cheat sheet. You should be able to find your sample ballot on your Secretary of State’s website. Without a Sample Ballot to use as a cheat sheet, it will be almost impossible for you to notice if the selections indicated on the paper printout/receipt (if any is provided) match your intended selections.
- Review the paper printout/recipt of your vote (if the touchscreen provides one) in its ENTIRETY. Studies show that voters rarely check the paper printout/receipt from touchscreen voting machines. This must change. If you get a paper printout from the touchscreen, take the time to compare all of the indicated selections — including referendums & down ballot races (which are incredibly important) — against your cheat sheet.
- Hit the “More” button on the touchscreen to make sure you see all candidates: When voting on a touchscreen, make sure you see all candidates on the screen. Some touchscreens, like the new ES&S ExpressVote, reportedly make you punch the “more” button to see all the candidates.
- Report problems: If a touchscreen has flipped your selections or you experience or observe other problems, alert poll workers, others in line (identifying the specific machine), local media, and social media. Demand that the machine be taken out of service and insist they let you use another machine or mark a ballot by hand. Take a video or photos if possible. Call the Election Protection Hotline at 1–866-OUR-VOTE.
Before Election Day, demand that state and county election officials remove/disable cellular modems.
In the last few years, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Rhode Island began using cellular modems to transmit election returns. Thirty election experts and election integrity groups recently sent a letter condemning this practice and recommending that the modems be removed/disabled before November. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-Fd8a8T_se0ZksU9jcwlH1Jnv4z3tgn9/view
The Department of Homeland Security has apparently been corrupted, as it has already advised that it will not help convey this message to the states and counties. https://subscriber.politicopro.com/cybersecurity/article/2018/10/dhs-isnt-interested-in-regulating-voting-technology-vendors-827832 Thus, it is up to us.
If you live in one of referenced states, please email the letter linked above to your State and county election officials and demand that they remove/disable the modems before Election Day. Contact local media if they will not.
Before Election Day, micromanage state and county election officials about emergency preparedness.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, ask your State and county election officials to confirm in writing (email is fine) that they are doing all of the things recommended in this excellent handout by the Brennan Center: https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/images/2018_08_ElectionSecurity_QuestionsBranded.pdf.
If they are not doing these things, please let me know. I can be contacted at @jennycohn1 on Twitter. I will try to help you apply pressure via social media.
Screenshot results as they come in on Election Night
Watch & record results on the Secretary of State or County websites throughout the night. “Take screenshots [about every 5 minutes], save them as you go, and include a timestamp in the filename when you do. Those web results also have a way of changing, sometimes in the wrong direction, throughout the night. Your evidence could help save an election.” via http://bradblog.com/?p=10915
If vote totals go down (which should never happen) and you catch this on your screen shots, this is an anomaly that can provide the basis for an election challenge. Please let me know if you notice something like this and I will help you get the information to the right people.
Photograph voting machine results tapes at the precincts and see if they match later reported totals.
Most counties print voting machine results tapes aka “poll tapes” at the precincts. The totals reflected on these tapes can provide the basis for an election challenge if they differ from the reported totals because any such difference would suggest an error or hack involving the central tabulators or reporting system.
The results tapes can also show us if machines were maliciously or negligently programmed to omit certain races entirely. Although you can request the tapes after an election, counties may delay providing them until after the election challenge period has expired and they may also charge you an exorbitant amount of money for the effort. (Johnson County, Kansas wanted to charge me more than $3,000.)
Some counties post the results tapes outside the precincts on Election Night. If yours does that (you will have to call), you can photograph the tapes without formally volunteering as an election worker or poll observer.
Otherwise, you will need to formally volunteer as an election worker or poll observer to have the access necessary to photograph the tapes when the polls close. Contact your state party to inquire about volunteering as an election worker or poll monitor.
See if you can get your favorite candidates to organize supporters to photograph the results tapes. You and they can focus just on problem-plagued counties and/or the most populous counties in the state.
Campaigns should be doing this, but most don’t realize it. You may also want to ask your local ACLU if they will help organize it.
But even if you go it alone and can photograph only a few tapes, it is still worth it. A single tape may suffice to demonstrate a problem, as recently occurred in Georgia where one of the tapes at a single precinct (in a notoriously suspect County) was discovered to have omitted a down-ballot race entirely. Poll workers didn’t notice this problem but a party election official did and he photographed and reported it.
Here are links to more election security resources:
- https://medium.com/@jennycohn1/states-are-flocking-to-buy-the-new-universal-use-touchscreen-ballot-markers-which-have-all-the-bb6708b9665c [article by election integrity advocate Jennifer Cohn, @jennycohn1
- https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/2085885331442946/ [short video by election integrity advocate Lulu Friesdat
- 2014 handout of election security tips by by TheBradBlog (many of which I incorporated here): http://bradblog.com/?p=10915
Here’s the tip card I created with @Jodi___ on Twitter: