Let People Vote bannerKnow Your Rights: Dealing with Problems at the Polls

This list of common problems at the polls describes what your rights are under Tennessee law and tips for dealing with problems at the polls.

What if I’m not on the voter list?
What if I go to the wrong polling place?
What if someone challenges my right to vote?
What if I make a mistake on my ballot or the voting machine malfunctions?
What if someone tries to intimidate or harass me?
How do I make a formal complaint?
Can I get a ballot in my native language?
What if I need help in the voting booth?

What if I’m not on the voter list?

First, ask a poll worker to check the list again and to confirm that you’re at the right polling place.

If you’re at the right polling place but your name isn’t on the voter list, demand a provisional ballot. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot, even if your name is not on the voter list, as long as you’re willing to swear that you believe you registered to vote. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-112.

What if I go to the wrong polling place?

Go to the right polling place. You can ask a poll worker to help you find the polling place where you’re registered. You can also call your county election commission office or look up your polling place online at http://tnmap.tn.gov/voterlookup/.

If you can’t figure out where you’re registered, go to the polling place that you think is most likely to be the right one and ask for a provisional ballot. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot even if you’re not sure that you’re at the right polling place.

What if someone challenges my right to vote?

Election judges will ask you some questions and rule on the challenge. If the judges rule against you unanimously, you have the right to cast a special ballot, but that ballot will not be counted. If the judges don’t rule against you unanimously, you have the right to cast a regular ballot. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 2-7-102, 2-7-123, 2-7-125.

What if I make a mistake on my ballot or the voting machine malfunctions?

Tell a poll worker before you cast your vote. If you spoil a paper ballot, you have the right to up to three replacement ballots as long as you catch your mistake before you cast your ballot. If your voting machine malfunctions, the election judges will decide whether you should vote on a different machine or on a paper ballot. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 2-7-119, 2-7-120.

What if someone tries to intimidate or harass me?

Tell a poll worker right away. If the poll worker is the problem, tell a poll watcher, call your county election commission, call ACLU-TN’s toll-free election hotline at 877-615-1999, or make a complaint online.

How do I make a formal complaint?

First, ask for an election supervisor at your polling place. He or she can handle most routine complaints that arise on Election Day. Candidates, political parties, and nonprofit groups may also have poll watchers at your polling place who might be able to assist you. If any of those people ask you who you voted for, or if they can’t resolve your complaint, call your county election commission or the Secretary of State.

Can I get a ballot in my native language?

Election materials in Tennessee are generally available in English only, but you have the right to bring an interpreter with you to the polls or to get assistance in your language from anyone you choose, including a poll worker, as long as the person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your labor union.

What if I need help in the voting booth?

If you need help because of a physical disability or because you can’t read the ballot, tell a poll worker when you get to your polling place. You have the right to vote on an accessible voting machine. You also have the right to have anyone you choose assist you in the voting booth, including a poll worker, as long as the person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your labor union. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-116.

If you need instructions on how to use the voting equipment, ask a poll worker for help. Poll workers are required to help you at any time you ask—even after you’ve entered the voting booth.

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Tips for Avoiding Problems at the Polls

  • Vote early in the day to avoid the last-minute rush.
  • Bring state-issued photo identification.
  • Read all instructions carefully.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Take your time. You have up to 5 minutes in the voting booth to cast your ballot if other voters are waiting and 10 minutes otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-118.