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Your voting rights are protected


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Franklin County voters are justly proud of their polling places. The election officers who check us in, take our ballot, and check us out again are our neighbors; we often know them by name. We expect and receive a friendly greeting and feel confident that our ballot will be duly counted.

And yet, the commonwealth of Massachusetts still felt it necessary to codify a Voters’ Bill of Rights. There are 15 of them and each one responds to a specific threat to enfranchisement, now and in the future. They are there to protect your right to vote. Before every election, citizens should reread them because each one is there for a reason and you never know when you might need them. Here they are:

Massachusetts Voters’ Bill of Rights

These rights are guaranteed to qualified registered voters:

1. You have the right to vote if you are a qualified registered voter.

2. You have the right to cast your ballot in a manner that ensures privacy. You have the right to vote without any person trying to influence your vote and to vote in a booth that prevents others from watching you mark your ballot.

3. You have the right to remain in the voting booth for five (5) minutes if there are other voters waiting and for ten (10) minutes if there are no other voters waiting.

4. You have the right to receive up to two (2) replacement ballots if you make a mistake and spoil your ballot.

5. You have the right to request assistance when voting from anyone of your choice. If you do not bring someone with you, you have the right to have two (2) poll workers assist you.

6. You have the right to vote if you are disabled. The polling place must be accessible, and there must be an accessible voting booth.

7. You have the right to vote if you cannot read or write or cannot read or write English.

8. You have the right to vote but must show identification if: you are a first-time voter who registered to vote by mail and did not submit identification with the voter registration form; or your name is on the inactive voter list; or your vote is being challenged; or if requested by a poll worker. Acceptable forms of identification are: Massachusetts driver’s license, other printed documentation containing your name and address such as a recent utility bill, rent receipt on landlord’s letterhead, lease, or a copy of a voter registration acknowledgment or receipt.

9. You have the right to vote by absentee ballot if: you will be absent from your city or town on Election Day; or if you have a physical disability that prevents your voting at the polling place; or if you cannot vote at the polls due to religious belief.

10. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot if you believe you are a qualified registered voter but a poll worker tells you that you are ineligible to vote.

11. You have the right to follow up any challenge to your right to vote through the complaint process.

12. You have the right to vote if you are not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction and have registered as a voter after your release.

13. You have the right to take this Voters’ Bill of Rights or any other papers, including a sample ballot, voter guide or campaign material into the voting booth with you. Please remember to remove all papers when you leave the booth.

14. You have the right to vote at your polling place any time between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. for state and federal elections — hours may vary for local elections. If you are in line at your polling place when the polls close at 8 p.m., you have the right to vote.

15. You have the right to bring your children into the voting booth with you.

If you feel that your right to vote has been violated in any way, call the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division at 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). This call is free within Massachusetts.