About that election: a handy guide

FairVote RI presents its 2008 election guide. Read on for more!    -Matt Sledge, FairVote RI Director

1. Where to vote

2. How to vote

3. What to do if you run into problems

4. How to stay informed

1. Where to vote. FairVote strongly recommends that Rhode Island voters use Secretary of State Mollis’s Voter Information Center today. Double-check your polling place; many have changed since the party primaries in September and the presidential primaries in March. More than 80 polling places have closed since the last presidential election. Mollis expects record turnout–perhaps as many as 500,000 of our state’s 700,000 registered voters–so there could be lines.

If you aren’t registered yet, you can still vote in the presidential election. Rhode Island offers same-day registration for the presidential race. Click here for a list of same-day registration sites. In Providence this option is offered at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. In most other localities it takes place at the town hall.

2. How to vote. We aren’t going to tell you. But we do recommend you make full use of the many election guides available online. FairVote’s 2008 candidate survey should be particularly useful for General Assembly candidates. Common Cause of Rhode Island has a legislative scorecard. Project Vote Smart has information for both local and national candidates.

3. What to do if you run into problems. You can call the Secretary of State’s help line at 401.222.2340. You may also call your local Board of Canvassers (here’s the statewide list)–just don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a busy signal.

If you run into irregularities at the polling place, you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). This number, run by the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection, is good nationwide. Election Protection has signed up thousands of lawyers to assist voters with urgent legal questions.

4. How to stay informed. Voting isn’t just a one-day event–it’s part of a complicated tangle of local and federal election laws and practices that have evolved over decades, and have continued to mutate after the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The national FairVote is, of course, an indispensable resource for people looking to become more informed about elections. Our director, Rob Richie, has just written a great editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarizing the proposals we’re making for elections administration. Also take a look at our presidential campaign tracker, which shows just how seriously the current Electoral College system distorts the presidential campaigns. (Maybe you’ve heard about our suggestion for changing this).

The Brennan Center and Demos are two prominent think-tanks, both of which do well-respected work on registration and election practices.

Rick Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School, is on fire with his Election Law blog. For another legal perspective, visit OSU’s Moritz College of Law Election website. Want to watch the cases in front of courts right now? Visit Moritz’s pending litigation tracker.

Wired magazine online’s Threat Level blog is focusing almost entirely on elections these days, with a special technological perspective. And I’d also recommend dropping by FiveThirtyEight.com for Electoral College projections. It’s run by an Obama supporter, but political junkies of all stripes should take a look at its detailed and often provocative analysis of the way the campaigns respond to the current Electoral College system.

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