Why are voting laws so different from state to state? What’s a poll watcher, and how can you become one? Derek Cressman of Common Cause, a voting watchdog organization, answered some frequently asked questions about the U.S. election system on the POV companion website for Election Day, a film that chronicles the 2004 presidential election in 11 cities and towns across America. Election Day premieres this week on PBS (check local listings).

The good news in Election Day is that more and more Americans are bringing their passion for democracy to the polls, drawing unprecedented numbers of voters eager to make the most of their right to cast a ballot and have it counted. Taking place in the long shadow of 2000’s bitterly contested presidential vote, the 2004 election also brought more scrutiny of polling-place practices from citizens as well as international observers. The bad news in Election Day is that close scrutiny of American elections finds a surprisingly antiquated system, which often works as much to frustrate voter participation as to encourage it and which harbors wide disparities in access between rich and poor neighborhoods.

If you have a question about voting, check out our FAQ, and if your question isn’t there, submit it in the comments below. At the end of this week, we’ll pick one (or two), Derek will answer it, and we will add it to the Election Day FAQ feature.

Added July 15, 2008: Derek has answered two of the questions posed in the comments on the Election Day FAQ. Visit the FAQ to find out why he thinks voting is a duty, and how much your vote really matters.

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