7 Steps To Make Sure Your Vote Counts
1. Make sure you are registered. If you have Internet connection, try Googling a couple of key terms like “voter registration” and the name of your county to see if your local election office is on-line. If you don’t have the Internet or if nothing comes up on the search, call your local election office to make sure you are registered, that you are on your precinct’s list of registered voters and ask whether you need to bring a form of identification with you in order to vote. The telephone number for your local election office is available from directory assistance.
2. Get a sample ballot from your local elections office, if one hasn’t been mailed to you, and read it carefully. If you have received a sample ballot in the mail, this is a good time to make sure that your name and address are correct, and that you know the location of your polling place.
3. Bring your sample ballot to help you in the voting booth. Your sample ballot contains a wealth of information and also provides a convenient way to keep up with your registration information as well as your choices on local initiatives that are complicated or require some study.
4. Try to vote between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or allow extra time for long lines. The times before work, during the lunch hour, and after work are especially busy. If you cannot vote on Nov. 2, you should examine your sample ballot or ask at the local election office if you can take advantage of “early voting” opportunities where you live.
5. Know your rights and ask for help if you need it. You can obtain information beforehand from your local election office and but don’t be afraid to ask the officials at the polling site if you need help.
6. You have a right to vote if you are registered in your precinct, even if your name does not appear on the list of registered voters in your precinct. Rules vary across the nation, so ask the poll workers in your precinct what you can do if your name does not appear on the list of registered voters. Casting a vote when your name mistakenly does not appear on the list is often called “provisional” or “fail-safe” voting. In some parts of the country, if you cast a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct, your votes may not get counted, so be certain you vote in the precinct you are registered in.
7. Stop and double-check that your ballot reflects how you want to vote before you turn in your ballot. Common problems include unintentionally voting for more than one candidate for an office, accidentally not voting for a candidate or a measure, forgetting to vote both the front and back of a two-sided ballot, accidentally turning over an extra page in a multi-page ballot, accidentally voting for the wrong candidate, making a mistake in the “write-in” section, and accidentally entering both the vote for a candidate and entering his or her name in the write-in section. If you make a mistake, ask a poll worker for a new ballot.
For additional information on the elections in your area, you can also go online at www.vote.caltech.edu or http://web.mit.edu/gsc/www/initiatives/election_US/.