Being Asked About Citizenship Status at the Polls? Know Your Rights!

Here’s what you should know before heading to the polls for the 2022 midterm elections.

A voter fills out a ballot for the Massachusetts primary election at a polling station in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Sept. 6, 2022.
Steven Senne/AP

The 2022 midterm elections will determine who will the next state and local officials. And from sports betting to abortion, so much is at stake. If you haven’t cast your ballot, here is what you need to know before heading to the polls.

It’s not too late to register!

California legally allows Same Day Voter Registration or Conditional Voter Registration. It’s a safety net law that permits eligible Californians who missed the deadline to register to vote or update their voter registration information.

If you haven’t registered to vote or if you have misplaced your ballot, here’s what to do:

  1. Make sure you’re eligible: You must be a United States citizen, a resident of California, and at least 18 years old on Election Day. You cannot be serving a state or federal prison term for felony. You cannot be found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.
  2. Be sure to have your photo ID and proof of residency with you. Here’s the list of acceptable documents.
  3. Show up to an elections office, voting center or polling place in person. Here’s how to find your polling place.
  4. Fill out your registration form and submit your provisional ballot.
  5. Once your eligibility is verified, your provisional ballot will be counted. Here’s how to check the status of your provisional ballot.

What is a provisional ballot?

A provisional ballot is a regular ballot, but it requires verification from election workers. When you fill out a provisional ballot, it’ll be placed in a special envelop before being put in the ballot box.

Here’s who can cast a provisional ballot:

  1. If you think you’re registered but your name doesn’t show up on the official voter registration list at the polling place.
  2. If you are not registered on Election Day but wish to cast your ballot
  3. If you voted by mail but wish to cast your ballot at your vote center (Only one ballot will be counted.)
  4. If you did not receive your ballot or do not have the ballot with you

Once elections officials confirm that you are eligible to vote, and you did not already vote in the election, your provisional ballot will be counted.

What if someone asks for my citizenship status at the polling place?

Voter intimidation is strictly prohibited, and that includes aggressively questioning people about their citizenship status. Any form of voter intimidation should be reported to the state and local elections offices.

No one should be blocked access to or near ballot drop boxes.

What if I’m being turned away from the polls?

Do not leave the poll if your name is not on the official voter registration list. Instead, do ask for a provisional ballot.

Do stay in the line if the poll closes while you’re in it. You still have your chance to cast your ballot.

Can I wear my favorite candidate’s T-shirt?

No, wearing political attire within 100 feet of the polling place entrance is considered electioneering, and that’s strictly prohibited under California law.

Voters who wear clothing that displays a candidate’s name, image or logo will be asked to take it off or cover it up. It’s also illegal to display any candidate’s name, image or logo near polling places.

Violations can lead to fines and/or imprisonment.

Here’s the full list of clothing and activities that are prohibited.

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