Voting Rules Q & A
As you head to the polls to vote today in the midterm elections, you may have a few questions other than which candidate is best. How long do you have to cast a ballot? Can dead people vote? Life’s Little Mysteries has all your answers.
If vote, will I be called for jury duty?
Serving jury duty seems as definite as death and taxes, which is why some folks try to dodge the obligation by avoiding the voting booths altogether. That doesn’t work, though. According to the New York City Voter Assistance Commission website, "Jurors are drawn from lists of state taxpayers and licensed drivers as well as from voter registration rolls. Do not give up your right to vote in the hope that you will avoid jury duty. Chances are, if you pay taxes or drive a car, you will still be called."
Do convicted felons really lose their right to vote?
In most cases, a person loses the right to vote if he or she has been convicted of a felony, but the restriction varies from state to state. Felons may be eligible to have their voting rights restored if they've served their sentence or have been pardoned.
In New York City, for example, convicted felons can vote if they have not been sentenced to prison or if the sentence of imprisonment has been suspended. Convicted felons also can vote in New York City if they have finished their maximum sentence and are currently serving probation.
Once I’m in the voting booth, how long do I have to cast my ballot?
In most states, voters are given three minutes to pull the lever, as determined by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) passed in 2002. If a poll worker thinks a voter is taking too long, the worker may ask him or her if assistance is needed. A family member or friend is allowed to enter the booth if the voter needs help reading the ballot.
Can you vote if you have just moved to a new place?
In order to register to vote, every state requires that a person live in the precinct in which they wish to vote for at least 30 days prior to an election. This prevents people from fraudulently voting in two locations.
Can I vote if I’m a hospital patient?
If you’re in the hospital on Election Day, you can still make your vote count. It works somewhat like an absentee ballot, and although specific rules vary by state, generally you can ask a hospital staff member for a voting form. Once you complete it, have your physician sign it to verify that you are a patient, seal it, and have a staff member or friend deliver it to the polling center.
Under HAVA, all voters should be given the opportunity to change the ballot if they feel that they have made a mistake while voting. Poll workers are required to give a voter a new ballot to correct any errors made while voting the first time. The old ballot is then voided and replaced by the intended vote.
Can the names of dead people really be used to cast fraudulent votes?
Literally referred to as "dead voters," this form of fraud is actually much less widespread than the way it has been portrayed in movies and the media. Since its passing, HAVA has made voting regulations stricter and cut down on fraudulent voting, including people using the names of the deceased to garner additional votes.
It’s easy to see how, prior to HAVA's eagle-eyed monitoring of voter status, "dead voters" may have fallen through the cracks. The elderly are very politically active : "Voters ages 65 to 75 and 75 and older are the categories which had the highest amount of registered voters, with 78.4 and 77.6 percent of them registering to vote," Robert Bernstein, a representative for the U.S. Census Bureau, told Life's Little Mysteries regarding the 2006 congressional elections. If someone's records had not yet been updated as deceased, an unscrupulous individual could have used a dead person's name to produce a vote without raising red flags.
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Got a question? Email it to Life's Little Mysteries and we'll try to answer it. Due to the volume of questions, we unfortunately can’t reply individually, but we will publish answers to the most intriguing questions, so check back soon.
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