Voter Registration Help
November 6, 2006 8:32 AM   Subscribe

As much as I'd like to contribute my vote to what could be a pivotal senate race, I don't want to do anything illegal. I need some clarification.

I recently moved to a different town in Rhode Island and wasn't able to re-register to vote before the deadline. Yes, I suck - I was a bit busy with my wedding. I got pretty depressed when I realized I wouldn't be able to cast a vote on November 7. But last night my friend mentioned that I could vote in my old town, where I am still registered.

Is he full of it? Or is this actually a possibility?
posted by csimpkins to Law & Government (13 answers total)
Sure, do it.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:36 AM on November 6, 2006

Go phone bank for your local GOTV. Call the candidate's office. You can also go doorknocking. There are ways that you can contribute without the fear of violating any laws.
I don't know about RI, but here in NM if your name does not appear on the voter rolls at your current address you can sign an affadvit and then fill out a provisional ballot. It won't get counted unless things get really close, but them's the breaks.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:38 AM on November 6, 2006

Give a call to 866-OUR-VOTE, which is a hotline set up by the National Center for Fair Elections that provides specific information on how the election law works and how you can vote specifically in your area. I'm sure they'll be able to answer your question.

It's free, and run by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, so they'll have you covered all around.
posted by eschatfische at 8:43 AM on November 6, 2006

The only de-register you in the old town when you register in the new one. You'll have no problem voting in the old one.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on November 6, 2006

I've done that very thing before. It's not illegal, AFAIK. Seriously, suppose you moved the day before the election--would you be unable to vote?

You legally registered to vote at your old address, at which you legally resided. You are not (I assume) planning to vote more than once. How would it be illegal?
posted by cerebus19 at 8:48 AM on November 6, 2006

Call City Hall (or whatever body was responsible for voting, if not a function of City Hall) at your old place and ask if you want to make sure.

I'm with the others, though, that you can most likely just show up and vote at your old voting location.
posted by fogster at 9:26 AM on November 6, 2006

I was a bit busy with my wedding

Congratulations, BTW. Forgot to put that in my comment.

posted by fogster at 9:27 AM on November 6, 2006

Thanks! I called 1-866-OUR-VOTE and while they couldn't give me a definite answer, they were very helpful. A few of their folks reviewed the RI election law as it pertained to my question and determined it was a bit vague and contradictory of itself. They gave me contacts to follow up with.

If I can't figure it out by tonight, I definately plan on showing up at my old polling place tomorrow to vote. I'll just stick to voting for the statewide races/issues only.
posted by csimpkins at 10:33 AM on November 6, 2006

I'm in a similar situation (with the exception that I filled out my new registration, but a canvasser from the Whitehouse campaign never sent it in.) but, as my new polling place is literally in my backyard, I'm just going to do a provisional ballot rather than making the trip across the state. I was telling my History professor about my situation, and he did mention that knowingly voting in the wrong district is illegal, and it is, a felony (!) punishable by up to five years in jail. I'm not willing to take that risk. I don't know how that would apply to you, having moved after the deadline, and I'd be interested to know what you found out.
posted by Ruki at 10:35 AM on November 6, 2006

Isn't that what a provisional ballot is for?
posted by drstein at 12:03 PM on November 6, 2006

Can I Vote? Your one-stop-shop to all the election information you need. When you select your state, it will probably direct you to the web site that directly applies to you and your area.

Also, smackfu, they are supposed to delete your registration from your old residence when you move and register at your new residence. This does not always happen! Check out this story from NPR about voter lists. It is always best to call your old election officials' office after moving and re-registering to make sure they have removed you from their list.
posted by youngergirl44 at 12:15 PM on November 6, 2006

Let's break it down.

§ 17-23-4 Fraudulent or repeat voting. –

Every person who, in any election, fraudulently votes or attempts to vote, not being qualified, notwithstanding that person's name may be on the voting list at the polling place where the person votes or attempts to vote;

'Qualified' in this context seems to relate to whether you've been stripped of your right because of a felony, etc. Not applicable.

or who votes or attempts to vote in the name of some other person, whether that name is that of a person living or dead, or of a fictitious person;

Not applicable - you seem alive and are intending to vote as yourself.

or having voted in one town, ward, senatorial district, representative district, or voting district, whether the person's vote in that case was legal or not, votes or attempts to vote in the same or in another town, ward, senatorial district, representative district, or voting district;

Not applicable - you're not going to vote in the new area.

or who fraudulently votes or attempts to vote in a town, ward, senatorial district, representative district, or voting district other than in the town, ward, senatorial district, representative district, or voting district in which the person has his or her "residence", as defined in § 17-1-3.1, at the time of his or her voting or attempting to vote; [remainder deleted]

There's the meat of it, and here's the text of 17-1-3.1:

A person's residence for voting purposes is his or her fixed and established domicile. The determinant of one's domicile is that person's factual physical presence in the voting district on a regular basis incorporating an intention to reside for an indefinite period. This domicile is the place to which, upon temporary absence, he or she has the intention of returning. Once acquired, this domicile continues until another domicile is established.

If you're of the nervous sort you could go to your new polling place and fill out a provisional ballot. Personally I'd go to my old polling place and just vote. If it was something that was possible to prove I'd suggest you only vote in those races where you're represented by the same people in either location. Since that's unprovable, however, I don't think that'll help you.

The big determinate here is can you be considered to have left the existing domicile yet? If you just got married last month and haven't even filled out a change of address card or changed your driver's license address yet then you're 100% clear - you have not yet demonstrated that you do not intend to continue residence in that location. Look at the link for 17-1-3.1 and all the things that are considered sufficient evidence for residence - if none of those apply to your new home then I think you can reasonably claim you're in the clear.

if they don't.... *shrug* I'd go ahead and vote, personally, both because it seems unlikely you'd ever have an issue and because I would be perfectly comfortable standing up and saying I am by god entitled to a voice in my representation.
posted by phearlez at 3:13 PM on November 6, 2006

Forgot to mention - the text of 17-1-3.1 contains the line "The following shall be considered prima facie evidence of a person's residence for voting purposes:" so that should mean that if you being any of those things with you with your new address to your new polling place that should be more than enough for them to provide you with a provisional ballot. So if you HAVE updated that driver's license then bada-bing - you're good to go.
posted by phearlez at 3:17 PM on November 6, 2006

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