Elections 101

Voting Rights and Voter Suppression: Call your Local Election Official

Created in partnership with Access Democracy

Your local election official is responsible for running your elections. Federal and state law sets many of the parameters, like the requirements for voter registration or the days that citizens can vote, while others are left to local officials to decide. Let your local election office know that you understand they work year-round to ensure well-run elections, and ask them to make decisions that make it easier for all eligible Americans to vote. These calls will help you learn more about the state of play in your community—making you a better advocate. They will also let your local election official know that citizens, like you, are engaged and are supportive of policies that make voting easier.

Remember: The best way to use this guide is to read through all of it, and decide which parts raise the issues most important to ensuring equal access to voting in your state. You don’t have to ask your local election official about every issue below! Fill Out the Survey at AccessDemocracy.us/Indivisible with What You Learned.


Locally, most elections are administered at the county level by an individual or a board. You can look up your local election office here.

The local election office is responsible for the logistics and mechanics of the election within their area, often including determining the location and number of polling places, allocating machine and human resources, and training poll workers.


Make a plan to call or meet with your local election official to ask how he or she is working towards fair, equal, and easy access to the ballot.



Why Is Easy Access to the Ballot Important?

How do you determine how many polling places to have on Election Day?

How do you determine where to locate polling places?

Is there a deadline for setting Election Day polling places?
How do you inform voters of the location of their polling place, especially if the location has changed since last year?



Why Is Early Vote Important?

Are you offering early vote to the maximum extent allowed by law – including the full range of days and hours?

How do you determine how many polling places to have during early voting?

How do you determine where to locate early vote polling places?

Is there a deadline for setting early vote polling places?
How do you inform voters of their early vote polling places?



Why Are the Mechanics of Election Administration Important?

How do you determine how many voting machines, poll workers, ballots, and other resources to allocate to each polling place?

The 2014 bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration recommended that election officials use a resource allocation calculator, such as the kind developed by the CalTech-MIT Voting Technology Project. Do you use this or a similar tool?

What kind of voting machines does our county/city use?

Is this different from what the rest of the state uses?
Do the machines use a paper ballot or produce a paper receipt of each vote cast?
How old are the machines?
Do you think we need new machines?
When are the voting machines tested?
Who does the testing?
Are the testing and certification meetings open to the public?
Do you have the resources you need to protect our election infrastructure from cyberattacks?

Do you use electronic poll books?

If yes → Great! What is your backup plan in the event that an electronic poll book malfunctions?

If no → Why not? The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s 2014 report recommends using electronic poll books to increase accuracy and efficiency and to give each polling place access to full, real-time county and state voter rolls.

Do you provide ballots and other election information in other languages? If so, what is your process for translating the materials?

Note that the Voting Rights Act requires areas with significant minority-language populations to print voting materials in English and other needed languages. Check here for areas covered by these requirements.

Do you need more poll workers? How can I become a poll worker?

What are the requirements for being a poll worker?
Do you allow high school students to be poll workers?
Can poll workers work half days?



Why Is Easy Access to Voter Registration Important?

Do you conduct registration drives or register people to vote in locations other than your office?

Do you send your staff to conduct voter registration at local colleges, citizenship ceremonies, or other places where there may be large numbers of unregistered eligible voters?

Can I help my friends and family register to vote? What do I need to know in order to be able to do it correctly?


Remember to Fill Out the Survey at AccessDemocracy.us/Indivisible with What You Learned