Last night, I had a conversation with a really bright person about voting. After a lifetime of doing just that, there were still questions about the process. It occurred to me that sometimes even the most obvious (to me and maybe you) questions still need answers.
We are just over a week out from an important election and seeing the call to vote everywhere we look. But what if we don’t actually understand the intricacies of the process and are intimidated? It’s too easy to walk away because we don’t have good answers.
Don’t let this process mess with you. Ask questions, whether of friends or online.
Okay … here we go. This is not exhaustive or all-inclusive, just a simple response to some over-looked and unexpected questions.
1. How to find information.
Using your online search engine, type in “<your county and state name> Election Commission”
While governmental websites generally stink, with a little effort, you can find everything you need to know on this site. From registration procedures in your state, to sample ballots and voting locations, it’s all there.
For Omaha, Nebraska, I simply typed “Douglas County, Nebraska Election Commission” and voila, found it.
Do I have to re-register in order to vote? I was surprised at this question, but with all the noise around this right now, it makes sense.
If you registered to vote in a previous election, you are more than likely still registered to vote. You don’t need to worry about that. However, if your name has changed or you’ve moved, you do need to re-register. Check with your election commission to discover how to do that. You still have time. In Iowa, you can register at the polling place on election day.
– If it is your first time to register to vote, you might need identification. This is fairly common. But if you’ve voted in the last bunch of years, you are still registered and should be allowed to vote.
Please take the time. If you think you’ve got all the answers, good for you. Go vote and be happy. If you worry about making the correct choices, even better. Look for answers.
Again, go to your county’s Election Commission website. I checked quite a few today and they all have sample ballots available – generally in PDF format so you can download and read them at your leisure.
In Nebraska, they call it the Gubernatorial Election 2018. In Iowa, it’s called the 2018 General Election. Most sample ballots carry more information than you need because they include precincts and initiatives that might not be in your direct location. But the big stuff is always on the front page of the ballot and after that, you’ll need to decide what else is important.
I voted via mail about a month ago. That option is more than likely no longer available because of timing, but you can still vote early if you won’t be available on Election Day.
Check for early voting locations on your county’s Election Commission website. You can also nearly always go to the Election Commission’s physical location any day of the week (except maybe Sunday) to vote early.
A question I hadn’t expected was: If I don’t mark everything will my ballot be voided? Not at all. You vote for who and what you want to vote for.
Also, if you screw up your ballot at the polling place, that’s not the end of the world. Take it to one of the polling workers, tell them that you messed up, they will take it and destroy it, then give you another one. I had to do that once when I’d gone too quickly, marked the wrong candidate and couldn’t get it cleaned up. They were very gracious. Do not fear.
Take your time at the polling place. Don’t let long lines intimidate you into hurrying through your ballot. This is your right and responsibility. Read through the information in front of you and if it takes time, that’s okay. They’ll wait.
Wear your “I Voted” sticker with pride. It’s a big deal to be able to do this in our country. We are so fortunate.
5. More Questions
I know there are a million other questions about the actual procedures and processes of registration and voting. Check first with the Election Commission website for your county to see if you can find the answers there.
Call the Election Commission and ask questions. These people are hired to make sure that this process is available to you. You have a week … now’s the time.
Ask a trusted friend if you can’t find the answers you need.
And for pity’s sake, if someone trusts you enough to ask a question that might seem to have an obvious answer, don’t be a jerk or a know-it-all. The last thing we need in this day and age is another blockage to reasonable communication.
Please do not respond to this post with heated discussions about anything regarding registration or election. Do not incite strong feelings with things you’ve read in the news or online. All I hope to do here is help us find ways to move past a barricade for those who have questions and don’t know how to find answers.
If you’ve tried everyone else or have no one to ask, send me a message. I am a wiz at online search and will do my best to help you. I know this could expose me to a million (exaggeration) questions, but I’d rather you asked than not vote.
Remember, this post is not all-inclusive, nor is it exhaustive. I understand that you might have done things differently, or it worked another way for you. That’s not the point. States and counties do things differently. Check with your election commission’s website.