Top 8 Election Myths, Debunked

You’ve seen them, the emails that tell you that if you wear a blue button and a purple hat and the new Jordans to your polling place, you won’t be allowed to vote on November 4th. But here’s the thing: It’s not true! And neither is most of the crap we’ve all been led to believe. Here, I break it down so it can forever and consistently be broke. Please pass this around like you passed around all those bogus emails. And brush up on your local election laws here.

8. Myth: Democrats and Republicans vote on separate days. Truth: This does sometimes happen during primary season, but when it comes to the general election, everyone votes on the same day. I promise. Bottom line: Contact your board of elections here to see what time your local polls open and close on November 4th.

7. Myth: Absentee ballots aren’t counted unless elections are super-close. Truth: Every properly completed and mailed absentee ballot must be counted before the election results are certified, though if an election is a slam dunk, a winner may be announced before the final tally. Bottom line: Your vote counts, no matter where you are. Go here to request your absentee ballot; just be sure to return it before Election Day.

6. Myth: You have to be old and decrepit to work the polls on Election Day. Truth: While the average age of poll workers is actually 72 (true story), it doesn’t have to be that way. We need young folks to monitor the process, as the aging die-hards have sometimes been cited for confusion and not following the current rules. Bottom line: Click here to find out how you can sign up. It takes just a couple hours of training, and you can even get paid for your time.

5. Myth: The poll worker is the end-all-be-all when it comes to voting disputes. Truth: Ah, no. Real talk, I once voted before work, and no one checked my name off the list, they just waved me into the booth. All day, I wondered how they could possibly count that crazy lever pull. So when I got home, I called the NY Board of Elections. They had no record of me voting, and told me to run and do it again. Damn. Bottom line: If you think something is fishy at your polling place, make two calls, immediately: your state Board of Elections (click here for the number) and the Election Protection Coalition (1-866-OUR-VOTE).

4. Myth: If you switch your registration from your home state to where you currently go to school, you’ll lose your financial aid, health insurance and dependent tax status. Truth: Wow, that’s a low blow—and it’s being perpetrated by schools in Virginia! The nonpartisan New Voters Project has researched and subsequently dismissed this one, noting that “In 25 years of registering young voters around the country, none of the staff has ever heard of a single incident where a student has lost their tax status or their scholarship because of where they’ve registered to vote.” Bottom line: Check with your scholarship and insurance company if it makes you feel better, but you should register wherever you think your vote will make the most impact.

3. Myth: If you owe child support, you can’t vote. In fact, you can be arrested if you show try. Truth: It’s just not true—unless you’re an ex-felon in Tennessee who owes back child support from while you were incarcerated. In that case, you have to pay the money before you can vote, according to a bogus federal court decision last week. But even they won’t be arrested—the voting logs aren’t at all tied to the child support system. Bottom line: Baby-daddys everywhere can rest easy, and go out there and vote next month.

2. Myth: Convicted felons can’t vote. Period. Truth: While 48 states (and DC) prevent current inmates from voting, and 35 states extend that to those out on parole (and 30 of those states extend that ban to folks on probation), just 2 states deny all ex-offenders the right to vote. Bottom line: Please let folks know about this one. Registration deadlines don’t start rolling in until October 10th, so there’s still time to sign up. Check here to see if your state is one of the few that actually bans ex-felons from voting.

1. Myth: If you wear Obama paraphernalia, you will not be allowed to vote. Truth: You won’t have trouble voting in your ‘nalia unless you live in a county that prohibits “passive electioneering.” Check with your Board of Elections, though all such laws could soon be overturned, pending the ruling in a court battle being waged in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania. Bottom line: Worst case, you’ll be asked to leave the polling site and remove the offending items; you cannot be denied the right to vote. But be on the safe side: leave the t-shirt at home, and call your BOE immediately if you see a citizen being refused the right to vote.

Heard one that I didn’t cover here? Tell me about it in the comments, and I’ll do the research for ya.
—Kenrya

If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Nay

    Kenrya, thanks for debunking these common myths. Can you shed some light on the absentee ballots sent out by the McCain camp? I’ve heard that they are not legitimate, and have the potential to disenfranchise people who think they’re “voting early,” but I don’t have all the details…

  • Diane

    Aren’t ballots legitimate only if coming from the BOE? I know you can register with a grassroot, and likely partisan, group – but ballot?

    We here can start voting on Oct 16th – really? I spent a month trying to get the BOE to acknowledge receipt of my application. Finally, and recently, they told me the ‘new’ subdivision (two years old) isn’t in the system so I have to do a provisional ballot.

    Anyone remember that nightmare? Not enough provisional ballots at polling places so YOUR VOTE DID NOT COUNT CUZ YOU HAD NOTHING TO VOTE WITH.

    I, of course, have printed out the entire email thread, including weeks of “can you tell me the status…” and will be bringing this to my polling venue. If they have no ballot, they’ll be needing to get in a car and find one.

    Freakin backwoods outside a state capital.

    So forget myths – make SURE you are registered. It’s not too late to fix anything that is incorrect.

    Anyone who does not understand, or has questions – like is a ballot valid – needs to go to their county BOE (websites available with email, phone information) and ask for clarity. This is their job. They will, if slowly, get you answers.

  • krankin

    Hi, Diane. LongDistanceVoter.org will link you to your appropriate BOE to request your absentee ballot—think of it as an one-stop shop no matter where you are based.

    Yeah, provisional ballots are a whole other mess that deserves its own column. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it soon…

  • Great to hear that even the deadbeat BABY DADDYS can vote. LOL. MYTH #2? Still unsure what states then do not allow prisoners to vote?
    the “click here” link takes me to a window that says “ACCESS FORBIDDEN” …big brother maybe?? JK. So PRISONERS are not allowed to VOTE?

  • Diane

    Hey K!
    Well, just tell me what I’ll need to do – obviously bring along my glasses!!! I remember absentee ballots from college. Provisional… I guess I could just look on their site…

    I’m gonna be the lone person sitting at an elementary desk voting. Cuz everyone else in this har town done grown up t’gether. Seriously.

    Remind me again why I picked HERE?

  • Van

    Good stuff,

    Thanks for shedding some light on these concerns 🙂 We need it!

  • krankin

    Hi, Dita. Thanks for reading. To answer your questions:

    1. Kentucky and Virginia are the only states that do not allow ex-felons of any kind to vote, ever.

    2. Paste this link to download the PDF (www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/1046.pdf) or see it as an HTML file here (http://74.125.95.104/search?q=cache:hgruBs7sLaEJ:www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/1046.pdf+www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/1046.pdf&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a)

    3. Maine & Vermont are the only states where current inmates are allowed to vote.