Russian hacking, election fraud rumors, and debates over voter ID laws may have shaken your confidence in the voting process. Though those issues may be outside your control, you can take precautions to make sure your vote is counted this Election Day.
Get voting details early
Now is the time to make sure your voting status in the county and state in which you currently reside, especially if you’re new to the area. Call your local election office or go online to register for the first time, or to confirm that your registration has accurate and up to date. Make sure you know your precinct’s polling location, too, as poll workers won’t accept your ballot elsewhere.
If your state allows early voting, determine the dates and times the polling place will be open, and plan when you will go. Find out what, if any, voter ID your state requires so you can bring it with you. If you’ll need transportation, contact a friend or the local office of your political party to ask for a ride.
Research your candidates, ballot issues
Get a copy of your sample ballot and review it in advance. Use multiple sources to research the candidates and the issues so you can make an informed decision. Mark up your sample ballot and bring it with you to your polling place – unlike school, the voting booth is a place where you’re allowed to bring in a “cheat sheet.”
Go to the polls
If you are voting on Election Day, try to vote between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., when volume is generally low. (If you’re stuck in line at the time the polls technically close, you should still be allowed to vote – but why risk it?) Bring any necessary ID and your sample ballot. Check in, follow instructions, and cast your ballot. If your ballot is fed into a machine, stay to make sure it is accepted.
And while you needn’t dress up to go to the polls, avoid wearing clothing adorned with political slogans, as they are not permitted inside a polling place and could result in your being turned away. Also, if your bring cell phone, you might want to skip the urge to take a selfie while you cast your vote, since doing so is illegal in some places.
If you are not allowed to vote and believe you are legally entitled to, politely ask for assistance at the polling place. Each state has its own procedures, but you should be able to cast a provisional ballot or complete a form requesting a review of your credentials and ballot. Do not leave until you are permitted to fill out these documents. You can also report the problem to your local Democratic or Republican party headquarters, or call 866-OUR-VOTE for assistance.