November 6, 2018November 6, 2018 4min readBy Ashni Mehta
As the 2018 midterm elections approach, we’re seeing a growing range of threats to voting: voter suppression laws around the country are restricting access to the ballot; in several states, overzealous voter purges risk disenfranchising millions of eligible voters. And although intelligence officials have warned that foreign adversaries are likely to attack our election systems again, few states have done enough to keep the vote secure.
But there are ways to make your voice heard. Here’s a useful guide to ensure you are prepared today!
1. Double Check Your Registration and Polling Place
Problems with the registration lists are some of the most common issues on Election Day. Use vote.org to make sure you are registered at your current address and find your polling place! If you think you have been wrongly purged from the voter registration lists — check to see if your state is one the 15 states with same-day voter registration. If your state has same-day voter registration, you should be able to register and vote as you would normally. If your state does not have same-day voter registration, make sure to ask for a provisional ballot.
1A. Order an Uber or Lyft for a Discounted Ride to Your Polling Center
If you’re using Uber, the discount only covers a single ride and can only be used on the cheapest option available. So, it’s likely you’ll be taking an Uber POOL. To take advantage of your discount, first, make sure you have the latest version of the app downloaded. Then, you’ll be able to find Uber’s Election Day promo code, which will be available on the app on Election Day. From there, you can go to your menu, tap “Payment,” and add the promo code. If you’re using Lyft, users can find their promo codes on BuzzFeed here by entering their zip code. Then, users can go to the menu on their Lyft apps and enter the promo code there.
2. Report Misinformation
Only rely on trustworthy sources to get information about how to cast a ballot. Always double check your source. Be proactive and report any misinformation you see. If you see any false information or voter suppression efforts to deter people from voting on social media, notify the platform so they can take it down.
3. Know Your Rights at the Polls
Every state has different rules about whether and how individuals can serve as poll watchers or challenge the eligibility of targeted voters at the polls or before Election Day. Regardless of what each state’s procedures are, federal and state laws affecting the whole country prohibit conduct that intimidates voters, targets voters based on race or other characteristics or intentionally blocks eligible citizens from voting. Under the Voting Rights Act, private actors and government officials are prohibited from engaging in any efforts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce a voter to vote or not vote, or to vote for or against a particular candidate. Federal law also prohibits anyone using race, ethnicity, national origin, language, or religion as the basis for challenging whether that person is qualified to vote.
4. Vote with a Provisional Ballot If Necessary
If you believe you are incorrectly turned away at the polls, you are entitled to a provisional or affidavit ballot. Ask your local poll workers why you are not able to cast a regular ballot and follow up with your election officials to make sure your ballot is counted.
5. Alert Poll Workers of Any Issues
Whether or not there are additional attacks against our election system, there will inevitably be some failures. There are reports that some voting machines in Georgia recorded votes incorrectly in the state’s closely-fought and high-profile governor’s race. Vote flipping is a technological issue. If voters see their machines flip votes at their polling location, they should tell poll workers, who in turn should take the compromised system out of commission. They can correct the error, fix the machine or provide you with an emergency paper ballot.
6. Call Election Protection If You Need Assistance
Long lines? Other questions? If you have any issues at the polls call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
All photos are courtesy of @KhaosKaptured | Models include (from L to R) @palakvani, @ashnii, @ramshaxrana, @notyouraverageladki, and @tsakhuja_walia
Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting.
In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance eventcentered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.
In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships.
Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality.SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.
While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.
Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular