In a perfect society, voting would be easy and efficient. We would walk into a calm, happy polling place, vote and then watch the returns come in later that evening. The reality, particularly in this election, is quite different. There will be roll irregularities, the need for ID, voter challenges and all kinds of other crazy problems. I’ve written a little guide to best practices in order to ensure that your vote gets in and counted on this most turbulent of election days.
1. Know where to go and plan out when you are going. It’s important to go to the right polling place. If you show up at the wrong one you may not be able to vote or you may have to fill out a provisional ballot, which can be thrown out later on any number of technicalities. If you do not know where you need to go check http://www.mypollingplace.com/ to find out.
It’s equally important to know when the polls will be open. In Louisiana they are open from 6am – 8pm. Also keep in mind that the lines may be extremely long this year, in some precincts the wait may stretch into hours. Plan on going at a time when you will be able to stand in line and wait or get there when traffic will be the lightest. According to the League of Women Voters the lines at the polls may be shortest from 10:00am-11:030am tomorrow.
2. Bring a picture ID. Bring a picture ID with you. IF you don’t have one you can still fill out an affidavit to vote, but it will be a major pain in the ass and you’ll end up spending a lot more time than you want to at your polling place.
3. Review the ballot. Check out the sample ballot before you hit the polls tomorrow. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the candidates and any other proposals that will be on the ballot. The Louisiana Secretary of State has a database of sample ballots available for all parishes and precincts.
4. Check your ballot before you cast your vote. It’s important to review your selections before you cast your final vote. I usually double or triple check to ensure that my choices have been properly selected.
5. Know your RIGHTS. This year every registered voter has the right to vote. If you are challenged at the polls, it’s important to know all of your rights. The Democratic party has put together a great document called the Louisiana Voters Bill of Rights that lays out all of the options for recourse if someone tries to hassle you at the poll. It is important for everyone to stand up to any scare tactics that may be employed this year.
6. Know where to turn for help. If you experience problems voting, or if you see anything improper at the polls, you may want to get help. There will be nonpartisan poll monitors at many polling places. (There may also be partisan poll watchers, and it's possible one of them may be the person objecting to your voting.) It is a good idea to bring a cellphone, and phone numbers of nonpartisan hotlines like the Election Protection program's 1-866-OURVOTE and Common Cause's 1-866-MYVOTE1.