This letter was submitted by Charleston resident Duke Bagger.
Many of your students are first-time voters. There have been some items thrown out there to make them think twice about voting.
Please assure them of these facts: No one, no one, has any right to ask a voter for whom that person will vote. No one has any right to ask in a general election party affiliation. Only the election judge has any right to ask if you are registered to vote in that precinct, or at all.
No one else has any right to demand voter registration or identification before the voter gets to the table. If there is an individual at the entrance to the parking lot demanding that information, call the police. Even if that person is armed, call the police.
All recognized political parties have every right to have poll watchers. Those poll watchers will be unarmed and can challenge a voter’s registration to, and only to, the election judge. No poll watcher or judge has any right to inspect a voter’s completed ballot.
In fact, each polling precinct has to account for all ballots, filled or not. After the polling place has closed ballots are counted but not inspected, filled and unfilled, to verify that the total number of ballots equal the number of ballots assigned to the polling precinct.
It is important for your students- indeed, all enfranchised persons- to vote their conscience. No one is allowed to nor has any right to intimidate a voter.
There has been some loose talk lately about poll watchers being sent to polling places to violate the rights and privileges allowed them. There has been some loose talk about poll watchers approaching voters and demanding information they are not allowed to have. Any questions your students might have can be directed to the Coles County Clerk’s office.
Duke Bagger can be reached at [email protected]