Can Someone Help Me Vote?
Under certain circumstances, you can get someone to help you get to your polling place and vote. Learn how in this article.
Federal law dictates that during federal elections, all polling places have to be accessible to disabled voters or else provide some alternative way to cast a ballot. The law also says that voters with disabilities and voters with limits on their English skills can get help voting from a person of their choosing.
That means if a voter has trouble reading, or English is a second language for them, they can bring someone to help them vote — as long as that person is not the voter's employer or associated with a labor union the voter might belong to.
What a Helper Can Do
The person assisting you can help you through the entire voting process, including filling out your ballot. Most states allow one person to help up to three people vote. They may not influence the vote in any way. Similarly, they may not tell others how you vote.
If you need someone to help you vote, call on a friend, neighbor, or family member. If that's not feasible, you may ask an election judge to help you. Some states even have what is called “curbside voting," in which election judges from the two major parties bring all the necessary voting materials to your car.
Options For Non-English Speakers
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act dictates that poll workers conversant in any non-English language that's commonly spoken in the area must be available at the polling place to provide help in that language. Also, ballots, information, and other written material must be available in that language.
At the same time, not all jurisdictions and counties carry this requirement, so it's possible that these materials won't be available on the day of local or state elections.
Options For the Disabled
When it comes to disabled voters, they cannot be turned away from a voting booth just because a poll worker does not think they're capable of voting. All polling places in a federal election must provide at least one voting station that allows disabled voters to cast a ballot independently and in private. If a disabled person wants a helper in the voting booth with them, however, that request must be accommodated.
Help is available from non-human sources, too. It's likely that your polling place has a machine that can mark your ballot where you choose. These machines display your ballot in large print, or can read it as you listen via headphones. The machines may also offer touchscreens, Braille keypads, or “sip-and-puff" devices that let you vote via a tube in your mouth. Those are alternatives if you have trouble holding or using a pen.
Some states have more resources available to help you vote than others. Iowa was singled out by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for creating the Helping Veterans and Iowans with Disabilities Vote Project. That project was intended to make sure that Iowans knew about the options available to help them vote, and conducted training sessions for election workers.
At the Polls: What to Do If Someone Is Helping You Vote
If you might need help voting, tell the poll worker when you arrive that you have chosen someone to assist you. Depending on where you live, you might have to swear under oath that you need help because you have trouble speaking, writing, reading, or understanding English. The person helping you might also have to sign a form verifying that they will not tell you who to vote for.
Once you have gotten help voting, you might want to show your completed ballot to an election official to make sure it was filled out correctly.
When Election Officials Don't Know the Laws
It's possible that an election official at your polling place might not be aware of these laws. If that happens, ask to speak to the supervising election official. Many voting rights organizations have digital flyers that you can print and bring with you so that election officials are clear on your right to have someone help you vote.
If you suspect that your voting rights have been violated by an election official reluctant to let you have assistance, you may voice your concerns to an attorney experienced in election law who can help decide if you're eligible to file a lawsuit.