If you’re like me, you’re ready for the mid-term elections to be over. The negative campaigning has been going on way too long, and it has become old and tiring. That said, it is still very important to vote. If you don’t vote then, in my opinion, you have no right to complain about our elected officials.
While voting itself can be an arduous process (the ballots are very long for this particular election – please make yourself aware of ALL of the races and issues that you’ll be voting on), there are some things that you can do to make the process easier. As a Precinct Judge, I’ve worked many elections, and here are some suggestions I have:
The first is to VOTE EARLY. In North Carolina, early voting starts on October 23rd and ends on November 1st. To find out where to “early vote” and the hours, go to http://www.ncsbe.gov/webapps/os_sites/ and enter your County. Pretty simple! The best thing about early voting is that you can go to any early voting site, no matter where you live in that County. But you must stay in the County where you’re registered.
While you’re at the website, go to https://www.ncsbe.gov/webapps/voter_search/ and enter your name and County, and you’ll find a multitude of information. The most important things here are your precinct, your polling place, and a Sample Ballot. On Election Day, you MUST vote at your precinct. In past elections, voters could vote a “provisional ballot” at a precinct that wasn’t their home precinct. I’m paraphrasing this, but the law now says that “provisional ballots” cast out of “convenience or necessity” (meaning not in your home precinct) will probably not be counted. Yet another reason to vote early – especially if it is difficult to get to your home precinct on Election Day.
Here are some things that you’ll need to know for voting, whether you vote early or on Election Day in North Carolina:
1. In general, no ID is necessary for this election. There may be a situation where you’ll be asked for an ID, but that will be for people whose voter registrations have an issue. As mentioned previously, go to https://www.ncsbe.gov/webapps/voter_search/ to make sure that you are properly registered. As a side note, Photo IDs will be required starting in 2016, and you can get more information about this when you go to vote.
2. No electrical devices (smart phones, tablets, computers, etc.) can be used by voters inside the polling places. If you have any election-related notes stored electronically, be sure to print them out prior to going to vote.
3. BE PREPARED! While you’re at that website mentioned above, do yourself a favor and look closely at the Sample Ballot. There will be many different ballot styles for this election, but the website will show the ballot that YOU will be using based on your home address. Print the sample ballot and fill it out. Then, when you go to vote, whether it is early voting or Election Day, you can just copy your choices from the sample ballot onto the “official ballot”. You won’t have to worry about forgetting who you wanted to vote for, or spend a lot of time mulling over a decision. Preparation like this makes the process easier, too.
4. On Election Day, the polls open at 6:30am. If you’re at your polling place before then, that’s great, but you will not be able to cast your ballot before 6:30. Even precinct officials can’t vote before 6:30. Don’t be upset – it’s the law!
5. On Election Day, the polls close at 7:30pm (unless a Judge orders the precincts to stay open later). You MUST BE IN LINE by 7:30. Running in from the parking lot at 7:30 will not work. As long as you are in line by 7:30, you will get to vote – no matter how long the line may be. The best advice here is to not wait until the last minute! Again, don’t be upset – it’s the law!
On a personal note, please be mindful of the precinct workers. We have to be at the polls at 6:00 am, which means we wake up around 4:30 or 5:00. By the time the polls open at 6:30, we’ve already gone through a thorough auditing process to makes sure all of the ballots that we’ve been given by the Board of Elections are accounted for. We are NOT ALLOWED to leave the precinct at all while the polls are open! It is a very long day, and we are simply trying to “make democracy happen” and help YOU with the voting process. Don’t get angry with us, as we are governed by very specific state laws regarding the voting process, and part of our duty is to enforce those laws with voters. If you don’t like the law, vote for a representative who can change it! Similarly, if you like the law, vote for representatives who support it. But, no matter what you do, be sure to vote! And, most importantly, be informed and aware before you vote!
If you’d like to be a Precinct Official, make sure you talk to someone where you vote. It is a lot of work, but it can be very rewarding and, if you’re with the right group of people, it can be a lot of fun!