Quick Guide to Voting Rights
Voting is the way we can use our voices to shape change in the United States. But, there can be barriers to voting while also dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The polling place may be hard to get to, you may be in the hospital the day of an election, or you may not be familiar with the rules around how to vote. This checklist provides information on your right to vote, ways to vote, and how to enforce your rights.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives states the responsibility of overseeing federal elections, however, there are many federal laws that protect the right to vote:
- Voting Rights Act of 1964 (VRA): made it illegal to intimidate or threaten someone to keep them from voting or to intimidate or threaten someone who is helping others vote. Also, states must allow voters who cannot read or write, and voters with other disabilities to receive assistance voting from an individual of the voter’s choice (cannot be voter’s employer or union). (justice.gov)
- Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA): states must provide access to accessible polling places in federal elections for seniors and individuals with disabilities. If there is no accessible polling place, voters must be provided an alternative way of voting. Accessible polling places should also include voting aids, such as instructions in large type and information by telecommunications devices. (justice.gov)
- Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (1986): protects the right to register and vote absentee in federal elections for U.S. citizens living overseas, active duty military and their eligible family members, who would be eligible to vote if they were living in the U.S.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 – Title II: states must ensure that individuals with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote, including being able to access and use voting facilities and polling places (e.g., accessible parking places, passenger drop-off areas, entrances, routes inside polling places between the entrance and voting area, ramps, and elevators). (archive.ada.gov/votingchecklist.pdf)
- National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA): requires states to allow you to vote in federal elections if your registration application is postmarked or received at least 30 days before the election (and many states have deadlines closer to election day). Voters who move can vote at the same polling place if you move within an area covered by that polling place without having to reregister. Additionally, states must make voter registration for federal elections available when people apply for public assistance programs, disability services, drivers’ licenses, or other state-funded programs. (justice.gov)
- Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA): requires that, for federal elections, each polling place must provide at least one accessible and private voting system for individuals with disabilities. (justice.gov)
For more information about federal voting rights: usa.gov/voting-laws
Ways You Can Vote
- Same-Day Voter Registration: Some states allow voters to register to vote and vote on the same day, including during early voting or on election day.
- Early In-Person Voting: Some states offer convenient and flexible voting opportunities in the form of early in-person voting before election day.
- Absentee Voting: Some states offer flexible voting opportunities through absentee voting or vote-by-mail. Some states require that voters have an approved reason, such as enrollment as a college student out-of-state, while others offer “no excuse” absentee voting for all voters.
- Voting During Hospitalization or Medical Emergency: Almost all states offer some form of emergency voting accommodation for voters who are hospitalized due to illness. In many states, voters will be able to request a special emergency ballot or apply for an absentee ballot after the state’s deadline.
For more information about the voting laws in your state, visit: TriageCancer.org/StateLaws.
How do I figure out when and where to vote?
To find your local polling place and when you can vote, contact your Secretary of State’s office: TriageCancer.org/StateResources.
Do I have to have an ID to vote?
Many states require you to show a form of ID when voting. Some states require a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, military ID card, or passport. But, some states offer free photo ID cards for people without another type of photo ID. Other states accept a non-photo ID such as a birth certificate, bank statement, utility bill, or Social Security card. For more information about the voter ID requirements in your state: ncsl.org/elections
In some states, it is still possible to vote even if you do not have the required form of ID or if your name is not on the list of registered voters at your polling location. Some states allow voters to sign a form affirming their identity or use a provisional ballot to vote. It is important to know what the rules are in your state before going to vote at your polling place. For more information: usa.gov/voter-id.
If I am standing in line when the polls close, do I have a right to still vote?
Yes. If you are in line when the polls close, you have the right to stay in line and vote. For more information: aclu.org/know-your-rights
Where can I call if I am at a polling place and have questions or am concerned?
Call the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) or visit: 866ourvote.org.
If I witness or suspect voter intimidation or suppression, how do I report it?
- Contact your state or territorial election office.
- Contact the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
- Use the Election Complaint Report online form.
- Voters may also contact the Civil Rights Division to request that an election be monitored.
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Last reviewed for updates: 01/2022
Disclaimer: This handout is intended to provide general information on the topics presented. It is provided with the understanding that Triage Cancer is not engaged in rendering any legal, medical, or professional services by its publication or distribution. Although this content was reviewed by a professional, it should not be used as a substitute for professional services. © Triage Cancer 2023