I held off on writing this piece in hopes that the past seven days of civil unrest would subside long enough for the voters in nine states and Washington D.C. to vote at their polling places or deliver their absentee ballot to a ballot drop box or their local election office. That was an object lesson in learning not to get my hopes up. Sadly, the states that delayed their primaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic now have additional concerns: preventing voters and election staff from contracting coronavirus is the easy part. Protecting voters and election staff from harassment, arrest, and extrajudicial violence or death for the mere act of exercising their civil right to vote has become infinitely more difficult.
The SWAT or National Guard would probably give me the benefit of the doubt if I crossed a perimeter or was out past curfew to return ballots. I’m the little white election official in charge of a majority-minority polling place, and I’m perfectly happy to note my privilege here. But it isn’t about me. It’s about the millions of voters who are discriminated against because of something they have zero control over. It’s about law enforcement given carte blanche to target citizens with little to no accountability or oversight. It’s about the failure of a system led by the reckless, indifferent, or complacent. America has never been a perfect union: her history is violent, bloody and contentious. But there have also been moments of deep joy and pride, where the nation as a whole realizes how lucky we are and why we are proud to be Americans. Those moments are becoming fewer and farther between.
Democracy is not self-sustaining. It’s a civic engagement between voters and the politicians they elect to represent them in our republic. The less work both sides put in, the more miserable the marriage becomes. Elections are the only time the tenuous relationship between citizens and government gets discussed. Then everyone is stunned when the complacency yields to brutal arguments that almost inevitably lead to violence and the involvement of law enforcement. I’m not sure which is more detrimental-complacency, disillusionment and inaction, or conscious oppression, fear, and hatred.
There are primary elections in nine states and D.C. today. If you are able to vote, get out there. But read below to find out what might affect your ability to do so. I want all my voters getting home alive, healthy, and without getting detained by the state. Disasters aren’t always Acts of God. Many times, they come about by the acts of man. Here is a guide to staying safe while voting in uncertain times.
There were supposed to be 144 polling places for the presidential primary. The pandemic reduced them to 20, and these will be Vote Center models (voters can vote at any location as long as they’re registered voters in D.C.). Please be advised that there is a curfew today, and it starts at 7 pm. Public transportation will be limited. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that voters will be exempt from the curfew, but please be careful out there. Polling Places close at 8 pm, and although voters may cast ballots as long as they are in line, there are few ways for voters to prove that they’re out after curfew for voting purposes. Expect considerable law enforcement presence, including the National Guard, particularly after 4:30 pm. If you can vote in-person or drop your mail ballot in the ballot drop box before 6 pm, that increases your odds of coming home without incident. And save your “I Voted” stickers. That might be the only way you can prove to the police that you have a reason to be out following the 7 pm curfew. I wish that Mayor Bowser had given more guidance to both voters and election officials about how they can travel between their homes, the polling places, and the election office without fear of arrest or detention. Stay alert, and don’t let anyone intimidate you while exercising your right to vote. If you believe that you’ve been denied ballot or polling place access because of your race, gender, or disability, you should contact the U.S. Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division in writing, as well as the D.C. election office.
Maryland switched to mostly Vote by Mail, but due to an unexpected issue with their ballot printing vendor, many voters did not receive ballots and must vote in person.
Baltimore City – There have been a lot of confusion about curfews and access to ballot drop boxes in urban areas. Here’s the most current information direct from the City of Baltimore: the ballot drop box at 417 Fayette Street in Baltimore has limited hours, due to protests. The election office in Baltimore will have limited hours as well, for safety purposes. All other ballot drop boxes in the city are open, ballots must be in the drop box by 8 pm tonight, June 2. There does not appear to be a curfew in the city, but it never hurts to check online just in case.
Polling Places have been reduced statewide due to the pandemic. Voting hours are 7am to 8 pm. If you mailed your ballot, it must be postmarked by today or placed in the drop box. If you need to locate a drop box or Polling place, contact the Maryland State Board of Elections- the website provides contact information for your local or county election office as well.
My compliments to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for having the most dynamic responses to a fluid election situation. The Governor has extended the curfew in places like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh until after voting hours have concluded. Voters should not expect to be questioned or detained on their way to or from the polling place or election office to drop off their ballot. Polling places are open from 7am to 8 pm. Due to concerns about voter and postal worker safety, the voters in Philadelphia, Delaware, Allegheny, Montgomery, Daily in and Erie Counties will have six days for their mail ballots to arrive at the election office as long as the ballots are postmarked by Tuesday June 2nd. The remaining counties in PA are not included in the extension. The Votes PA website has links to local election offices and additional voter information.
There are 47 polling places open today, however, most voters have chosen to vote by mail. If you’re one of the 80,000 voters who was mailed a ballot, get it to a ballot drop box or your local election office by 8pm on June 2nd. If you’re one of the 39,000 who plan to vote in person, you’ll score plenty of points by wearing a face covering. Workers will be enforcing the 6-foot distance between voters. As of this afternoon, no curfew is in place for Providence. Polls are open from 7am to 8pm. To find your polling place or drop box:
Polls are open from 6am to 6pm, and there is a shortage of poll workers. If you need to vote in person, be prepared for possible lines. Face coverings are encouraged, but not mandatory. If you haven’t mailed your VBM ballot back yet, you may drop them off at your local election office. Marion County has not indicated whether or not there will be a curfew tonight. For voter information, election office, and polling place locations:
Iowa is a state that prioritizes elections and voting. Props to Secretary of State Paul Pate and State Auditor Rob Sand for ensuring absentee ballot requests were sent to as many registered voters as possible. Ballots that were mailed must have been postmarked by June 1st. Polling Places have been reduced statewide due to concerns about COVID-19. So far, no curfews have been announced in the state. Wear a face covering and bring your own pen. Polling places are open from 7am until 9 pm. Iowa has a dedicated voter information website with links to county election sites and a way to check the status of absentee ballots.
I learned today that the postage to return a voted ballot in South Dakota is $1. Also, 2800 absentee ballots are considered “record turnout” in several of the counties. This isn’t going to be a high turnout election, no curfew is in effect, and no polling place closures occurred. Then again, there weren’t that many polling places to begin with. Most of the polling places are open from 7pm to 7am Central Time, unless you are in Stanley County. For Stanley County, polling places are open from 8am to 8pm Mountain Time. For additional information:
This is Montana’s first all-mail election! Ballots must be returned to the local election office by 8pm, no exceptions. There is no in-person voting today. For election office locations:
The Land of Enchantment is another state that puts voters first, and I salute Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver for her proactive election policies. Masks are mandatory for poll workers and voters. Polling places are open from 7am till 7pm. Vote Centers will be open in each county, contact your City Clerk for locations. Only small groups of voters will be allowed in at a time. Ballots that have not been mailed back should be delivered in person to the election office by 7 pm tonight. No curfews are in effect. For voter information:
Another state that will not have any in-person voting. ALL ballots are due back by 8pm tonight. Ada County will have 5 drop off locations, but all other counties require return to the County Clerk’s office. For voter information: