*thumps mic*testing, testing, 1, 2, 3. Everybody hear me ok? It's that time of the year. Time for my annual plea for everyone to go out to vote. Please, please, please, I beg you - GO VOTE!
One point I want to make to new or first time voters (and really, anyone who isn't familiar with the process). Go to your polling place prepared. In this election - like most hotly contested races - there will be groups looking to find any reason to disqualify someone from voting. DON'T GIVE THEM A REASON!
I've heard from several sources that if you show up at the polling place with any sort of campaign paraphernalia visible you will not be able to vote. I'm not sure if that part is true, however all states have rules against campaigning in and around the polling place. My take on this, as an election judge is, in my precinct, we give the voter the benefit of the doubt. We would tell you to remove the item, put it away, etc. and then allow you to vote. HOWEVER - not all judges have this attitude. But, if you are ever told you cannot vote, demand a provisional ballot. Unless you are absolutely belligerent about it, you should be given one if you demand it. If there are any disputes about your eligibility to vote, a provisional ballot at least gives you a CHANCE to have your vote count.
Some tips to make your trip to the polls a smooth one.
1. Make sure you have a state issued ID on you. Some places ask, some places don't. Don't be caught unprepared.
2. Make sure all your information matches your voter registration card (including your EXACT address). One of the biggest reasons students get turned away from the polling place is they have moved but did not change their address with the voting authority. Even if you move to the apartment next door in the same building, your legal address as changed.
3. Be prepared to wait. If you don't want to wait, go on an off time. Our slowest time tends to be from about 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.
4. If you have a questions, are unclear of what to do, ask. There's normally someone standing around the ballot box who would be more the happy to help you out.
5. If you mess up your ballot, ask for a new one - we have procedures to deal with a spoiled ballot, it's not a big deal.
6. Read the ballot completely, but know who you are voting for before you get there. It makes the process go faster for you. All voting authorities have to publish their ballots ahead of time in the newspapers. A lot of counties are now publishing the ballots on-line. Easily googled.
7. Have faith in the system, but educate yourself about the specific process in your city/county. Better yet, volunteer to be an election judge. That gives you an unique view of the whole system.
And thus endeth the lesson for this year... :) If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me. I'll even share my thoughts about the electronic, touch screen voting!