News Column

'Where Do I Vote?' A Primer on Voting Locations, Sample Ballots and More

Nov. 3, 2008

Jessica Haro--Assistant Editor, HispanicBusiness.com

voting place, polling place, voter registration, absentee ballot, voting times

After a seemingly never-ending election season, voting day is almost upon us. One of the big questions people are asking is "Where am I registered to vote?" This is important information to verify, as it might be different from prior elections. Polling places are listed on the sample ballots registered voters received by mail before the election.

Voters who no longer have their sample ballot can find their designated polling place at SmartVoter.org or Vote411.org. The two non-partisan sites feature polling place locators and other critical voting information. Where available, SmartVoter.org provides users with a guide to everything on their ballot, including candidate profiles and information on state and local measures, as well as information on voting early. For counties where this information isn't available, the Web site has links to places that can provide more information to voters. Vote411.org has voting information by state, such as each state's polling place hours, contact information for the secretary of state, and information on whether voters need to present identification, the types of voting machines used in that state, and how to contact your elections official.

Many voters have already cast their votes, either by mailing in their absentee ballots or voting early. A quick overview of whether early voting is offered in each state, and under what conditions, can be found at Reed College's Early Voting Information Center. For early voting information specific to your area, call your county elections office. In most cases, voting early entails casting a ballot at the county clerk's office, or a similar procedure. Absentee ballots must be received by the end of polling hours (postmarks don't count). Those voters who have yet to turn in their absentee ballots must meet the postal deadlines to send it overnight, or hand in the ballot at any polling place in their county.

To avoid election day stress, the best strategy is not to wait until the last minute to arrive at the polls. Some states actually guarantee paid time off to vote for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to make it to the polls. If you do arrive at the polls late in the day, you have the right to vote if you're still in line when the polls close.

While not all states require identification to vote, it is always a good idea to bring some form of identification just in case. If your name doesn't appear on the roster for your polling place, you are entitled to a provisional ballot, which will be counted once the county clerk's office confirms that you are eligible to vote in that jurisdiction, and that you haven't already voted at another location. You can call the clerk's office later in the week to see if your vote was counted.

A good way to get in and out of the voting booth as quickly as possible is to fill out your sample ballot ahead of time and bring it with you. Also, remember you don't have to vote for everything on the ballot. If you make a mistake, you are entitled to a new ballot. Likewise, if your machine isn't working, you have the right to use a different one, or cast a paper ballot.

Whether late or early, via mail or in person, voter turnout for this election is sure to be high, if not record-breaking . . . so long as everyone can find his or her assigned polling place.



Source: HispanicBusiness.com (c) 2008. All rights reserved.


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