1) Your Ballot, Your Vote Don’t panic if you registered to vote but your name is not on the list. Get help from a poll worker to make sure your vote is counted. You may be directed to another polling place or given a provisional ballot.
Provisional/interim/conditional ballots are intended as a safeguard for voters whose eligibility is in question on Election Day. These include those whose voter registration is in doubt, those who may have been erroneously purged, or first-time voters who registered by mail and have I.D. problems.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that provisional ballots be counted if the voter is eligible to vote by state law. However, some election officials have chosen to apply standards for counting provisional ballots that are unrelated to voter eligibility, such as casting the provisional ballot in the proper polling place and filling out the enclosing envelope correctly. Provisional ballots are the safety net so that no voter coming to the polls will be turned away.
However, provisional ballots should not be considered a backup for poor polling place operations or a catch-all for all problematic situations. Election officials should make every effort before the election to reduce the need for numerous provisional ballots, by improving the registration system and by other means to allow the voter to cast an ordinary/regular ballot. Too many provisional ballots will increase the post-election administrative burden on election officials and delay election results.
2) I.D. – Don’t Go Without It You may need to show I.D. To be safe, bring your driver’s license, or a paycheck, utility bill or government document that includes your name and street address.
HAVA requires that first-time voters who register by mail present I.D. prior to voting on Election Day unless the state has already verified their identity. Unfortunately, many states have gone further, and are requiring all voters or all first-time voters to present I.D. In addition, while HAVA says that the application of the new requirement must be “uniform and non-discriminatory,” many states have neither established mechanisms for ensuring uniform and non-discriminatory application, nor informed the public as to what forms of I.D. are acceptable in their state. Because this is a new requirement, it could lead to problems such as unequal and discriminatory treatment, and ultimately lead to wrongful disenfranchisement on Election Day.
3) Writing on the Wall Look at the signs at the polling place for directions on how to use the voting machines, a list of your voting rights, and instructions for filing a complaint if your rights have been violated.
Voters will face many changes in the polling place this year. Many will experience new procedures, some will see new equipment, others will see the same equipment as before but now wonder if they failed to cast their vote properly, and many will be first-time voters. To address these realities, HAVA also requires that basic voting information be posted in the polling place. Election officials should work with design and usability professionals to ensure the readability of the information they’re providing in the polling place. Information/instructions should be written clearly and simply and provide illustrations. Voting machine instructions should include how a voter can review his or her ballot, and how to check for overvotes and undervotes. And, information regarding what constitutes a spoiled ballot and instructions for securing a new ballot should be provided.
4) When in Doubt – Ask Poll workers are there to help you. They’ll show you how to work the machines and give you a provisional ballot if you need one. If you’re at the wrong polling place, they should tell you how to get to the right one.
Poll workers are volunteers from the local area, who are committed to helping voters. Ultimately, the successful administration of elections lies in the hands of poll workers. However, in too many cases, there are too few of them and/or they have not received the necessary tools from election officials. Such tools include appropriate training, easily searched reference information to answer questions, and the official list of all voters, with their polling place identified, for the election registrar’s entire jurisdiction.
5) In and Out You probably won’t have to wait too long. But even if the line is long, don’t leave without voting. The outcome of this election will be important!
Many voters state that they don’t have time to vote and that’s why they haven’t participated in the past. Creating a sense of a positive voting experience and giving voters the tools they need to achieve this – such as the League’s 3 Ways to Make Voting a Breeze – will go a long way in increasing voter turnout. The League is urging TV and radio stations to help with this by giving regular updates on Election Day on wait times at polling places in their area.
Know What to Do if You Experience Election Day Problems
Call toll free — 1-866-Our-Vote — to report problems and to receive advice on what to do. This hotline is being operated by the Election Protection Coalition, which is composed of many organizations including the League of Women Voters.