Voting Rights Survey

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 Does your county/state make elections as fair and democratic as possible?

What aspects of the process should be
improved to make it more fair and democratic?

Please help us answer these questions about your local and state elections!



 Questions to Ask in Your Community and State


Voting at the Polls

o       Are polling hours for all elections sufficient for working families � for example, 6 am to 9 pm as in New York?

o       Are the numbers of polling sites and polling stations in these polling sites adequate for all elections?

o       How are polling sites selected? How accessible are these sites?

o       Is there ample time for voters in the booth (i.e., no time limit which discourages those needing more time)?

o       Are voters informed about any voting errors and able to correct those errors at their precinct?

o       Are polling places accessible to people with disabilities?

o       Is early voting � voting at designated polling sites before an election � allowed?

o       Is weekend / holiday voting used or debated?

o       Are voters who are in line when the polls close still able to vote?


Voter Education and Voting Standards 

o       Are voting standards uniform and non-discriminatory?

o       Is a list of voters' rights posted at polling places?

o       What is the procedure if a voter receives his/her voter registration card, but learns his/her name is not on the voter registration list when at the polls?

o       How is accuracy maintained in voter lists? How often are newly registered voter names put on the list once they arrive in the election office?  What is the verification process?

o       What is the law/procedure on challenged ballots?

o       Does the voting process offer a secret/independent ballot for people with disabilities (those who use wheelchairs and those who are visually impaired, for example)?

o       How is the need for bilingual ballots and language assistance determined?  In what languages are they provided?

o       Are voter guides sent out before elections?

o       Are poll workers well-trained and adequately paid?

o       Do newspapers and radio and television stations assist with voter education and explanations of how to vote?


 Voting Rights for Citizens Convicted of a Felony

o       Can ex-felons regain the right to vote? How difficult is it?


Voting Equipment

o       What type of equipment is used in polling places?

o       How many years has the equipment been in use? 

o       How is the voting equipment maintained prior to and on Election Day?

o       Can the equipment handle instant runoff voting, proportional representation and cumulative voting?

o       Does the voting equipment allow for a backup record for a re-count, if necessary?


Campaign Finance Reform

o       Is some form of public funding available for county, state and national campaigns?

o       Are there limits on contributions to candidates / parties?


Instant Runoff Voting

o       Has instant runoff voting been used or debated?

o       Does state law allow for it to be used locally?

o       Are traditional runoffs used? Are they costly?

o       Have major elections been won with less than a majority?


Proportional Representation 

o       Has a proportional system been used or debated?

o       Does state law allow for it to be used locally?

o  Are significant communities of concern / racial groups under-represented in your elected legislatures?


Voter Registration

o       When is the cut-off date for people to register before an election? Has it been shortened or increased recently?

o       Are eligible voters encouraged to register when applying for a driver's license and benefits? Are they given assistance in filling out their registration form to avoid errors?

o       Is election-day registration used or debated?

County and State Election Boards

o       Do you have such boards? Are they partisan or non-partisan?

o       Does the local election board encourage public involvement?

o       What is the relationship between state and local boards?


Candidates� Access to Media, Debates and the Ballot

o       How many signatures does it take for candidates for different offices to gain ballot access?

o       Are ballot access requirements different for major party candidates and for minor party and independent candidates?

o       Are all candidates able to participate in debates?

o       Is free/low-cost advertising available to viable candidates? 

o       Is the system for determining candidate viability for advertising and debates fair and reasonable?


Voting Rights Act

o       Is your state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which means that the Dept. of Justice must approve changes to election law/practice)?

o       Which racial and ethnic minorities in your area have the most to gain from the Voting Rights Act?

o       Has a lawsuit based on the Voting Rights Act been filed in your locality or state? What happened?


This checklist covers many important democracy issues, but not all. The Center for Voting and Democracy and the Alliance for Democracy developed it, with assistance from Voices of the Electorate (VOTE), a project of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation.  For information on these issues and how to pursue reform in your community and state, please contact:


The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 901  Takoma Park, MD  20912
301-270-4133 (fax)            [email protected]


 For information on the Alliance for Democracy please call 781-894-1179 or visit

 For information on VOTE, please see