Polling Place Rules and Regulations
American citizens currently have access to more voting methods than ever before. Many states allow mail-in voting (citizens of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado vote exclusively by mail), early voting, and/or absentee ballots. However, most Americans still cast their ballot in person at their local polling place.
Modern polling sites are much safer than they used to be, but they can still be places of contention and uncertainty. Because voting is such a critical function in a democratic republic, it is important that voters understand what they can expect when they go to the polls, and what they can and cannot do when once they arrive.
Depending on its size, a county will be sectioned off into multiple voting precincts — also known as voting districts. Most polling places are located in a relatively central location within a particular voting precinct. There are many resources available for voters who are unsure about where to find their local polling places. Most Secretary of State websites have a polling place finder.
All voting-eligible U.S. citizens have the right to access their local polling places and cast a ballot, including the disabled. As such, polling locations are required to meet specific accessibility standards. These standards are laid out in detail in The Americans With Disabilities Act. Some accessibility standards include:
- Entrances and voting booths wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs
- Handrails on stairs
- Voting equipment for individuals with impaired sight and/or hearing
In modern America, people generally expect to cast their ballots without being told for whom or what they should vote. Even though this is a relatively new concept in American politics, it has, for the most part, become the norm.
When an individual attempts to convince someone else to vote for or against a particular candidate/bill/amendment/etc., that individual is electioneering. Every U.S. state prohibits electioneering within certain distances of polling places during voting hours. Specific distances, definitions, and legal consequences vary by state.
It is important to note that clothing and accessories like buttons and pins can also be considered electioneering materials if they advocate for a particular candidate or campaign and voters may be asked to cover or remove them.
Polling Place Assistance
With a few exceptions, every American above the age of 18 has the legal right to vote. Most districts make an effort to ensure all eligible voters are accommodated. However, if a voter believes their access to polling places and/or ability to vote has been restricted, they should consider contacting an experienced legal professional who can provide advice and assistance.