WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — QUESTION:
Can someone legally challenge your right to vote during early voting or on Election Day?
Yes. In addition to poll watchers, another registered voter can challenge someone's right to vote. The basis for those challenges varies depending on where you are.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh
After President Trump’s call for poll watchers, there’s been a lot of talk about the possibility of voters being challenged at the polls.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia allow for poll watchers, but those people have to be pre-registered to be allowed to stay at a polling place and potentially challenge someone’s right to vote.
But, according to those laws and election rules, another registered voter can also challenge someone’s right to vote. The ability to challenge depends on where you are.
The Maryland Board of Elections says a person can challenge a person’s identity, if they think the person isn’t who they claim to be.
“A registered voter can challenge another registered voter or another person’s right to vote," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said. "It has to be based on their identity. You can’t go back in the poll and do it repeatedly, but if you have a legitimate challenge concern that somebody is not the person they say they are, you can bring that to the attention of the election judges.
Frosh added a reminder that it's illegal to try and intimidate voters away from the polls though.
"It's a crime to intimidate voters and if people are trying to stop people from voting, intimidate them from voting, harass them to stop them from voting, that’s a crime," he said. "And we will pursue those actions if we find them to be occurring on Election Day."
In Virginia, the basis of where someone can challenge a person’s qualifications to vote is slightly different.
For example, a registered voter can challenge the right to vote if they think:
- the voter isn’t: a U.S. Citizen
- the voter isn't a Virginia resident,
- the person already voted
- the person isn’t who they say they are
In D. C., challengers must give a basis for the challenge and evidence to support it.
Now here’s how the process works.
If you challenge someone, or you’re challenged, all three jurisdictions require both sides to fill out paperwork under the penalty of perjury. If officials can resolve the challenge then and there, the voter casts a regular ballot.
If not, the voter still has a right to vote through a provisional ballot or Special Ballot in D.C.
So, we can verify that yes, in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, a registered voter can challenger someone’s right to vote at the polls.
And in Virginia, you must bring ID to vote.
You can check out more information on poll watching and vote challenging laws in other states at the National Association of Secretaries of State.
If you have any voting issue during early voting or on Election Day, Nov. 3, here's who to contact for voter complaints: