How to Report Voting Rights Problems

Defend Your Right to Vote

Protester holding sign demanding the protection of voting rights
50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

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Due to the protections of four federal voting rights laws, cases of qualified voters being improperly denied their right to vote or register to vote are now relatively rare. However, in every major election, some voters are still improperly turned away from the polling place or encounter conditions that make voting difficult or confusing. Some of these incidents are accidental, others are intentional, but all should be reported.

What Should Be Reported?

Any action or condition you feel prevented or was intended to prevent you from voting should be reported. Just a few examples include polls opening late or closing early, "running out" of ballots, being intimidated or threatened into not voting, and having your identity or voter registration status improperly challenged.

Any action or condition you feel made it difficult for you to vote should also be reported, including but not limited to barriers to accessibility, lack of accommodation for wheelchair or walker users, lack of assistance for non-English speakers and those not fluent in English, overly confusing ballots, lack of privacy while voting, and generally unhelpful or unknowledgeable poll workers or officials.

Actions or conditions that should be reported include possible violations of the voting-related provisions of the Civil Rights Acts, the Voting Rights Act, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Help America Vote Act.

How to Report Voting Problems

If you experience any problems or confusion while voting, report the situation to one of the poll workers or election officials immediately. Do not wait until you have finished voting. If the election officials at the polling place are unable or unwilling to help you, the problem should be reported directly to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. There are no special forms to use or procedures to follow—just call the Civil Rights Division toll-free at (800) 253-3931, TTY (202) 305-0082, or contact the department by mail at:

Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
4 Constitution Square
Room 8.923
150 M Street, NE
Washington, DC 20530

Alternatively, potential voting rights violations can be reported securely online by filling out the Department of Justice’s Election Complaint Report form.

The Department of Justice also has the authority to station federal election observers and monitors in polling places thought to present the potential for discrimination and other voting rights violations. The jurisdiction of DOJ election observers is not limited to federal-level elections. They may be dispatched to monitor elections for any position, anywhere in the nation, from president of the United States to city dogcatcher. Any observed potential violations of the Voting Rights Act or any other action determined by the observers to be an attempt to influence certain voters or to prevent them from voting are reported to the DOJ's Civil Rights Division for further corrective action.

As of 2016, at least 35 states and the District of Columbia permit trained, nonpartisan citizens to serve as election observers. In the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Justice sent observers to Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana, and New York.

View Article Sources
  1. "Policies for Election Observers." National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 Oct. 2016.