Easy Steps to Ensure Your Vote Is Counted

11/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How can you be sure that you will be able to vote? How can you be sure that your vote will be counted?

Before you go to vote, you can take these steps:

Make sure you have proper identification. Check on this website to see what your state accepts for identification. Alternatively the League of Women Voters provides a wealth of information on state identification requirements, in addition to other important information about voting at this website. Some states require that you bring your voter registration card. Other documents accepted for identification are current valid photo identification cards, citizenship papers, a utility bill with your name and address, your social security card, public assistance identification, or your Medicare card.

Write down the 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) hot line, and perhaps the phone number of your local presidential campaign office or precinct chairperson in case you need to contact them for help.

You may want to confirm that you are a registered voter. You can check the nonpartisan website of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Choose your state and you will go to your state website where you can check your voter registration. (Or call the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hot line.) If you are not on the voters' registration list but believe that you have registered, complain to the county election office, take notes, and call the hot line number for assistance.

Study a sample ballot and read the instructions on voting in your state. If you are going to vote on constitutional amendments, which are often written in legalese, make sure you know what they mean. The League of Women Voters provides a list of constitutional amendments for each state with an analysis of the amendments so the voters can understand what they mean. Go to their website ; there are four boxes at the top, click on the box on the right that reads "On Your Ballot." Constitutional amendments, if any, are listed and explained.

Vote early if this is allowed in your state. You can check on this website to find out if and when your state allows early voting. There are links on this site to state websites that either identify locations for early voting or provide information on how to contact the state office election office. When you vote early, you avoid the crowds at the polling places. In addition, there might be some reason, such as a child's illness or your illness, that would prevent you from voting on election day.

If you are voting on election day, November 4, check with your county or your party's campaign office to be sure that you know the correct election site for your precinct. Alternatively, the League of Women Voters provides a polling place finder. All you have to do is enter your address, and you will be taken to a page that indicates the address of your polling place and also includes a map indicating its exact location. Or you can go to this website, which also provides links to polling places by state.

If you do not have any way to get to the polls, many state Republican and Democratic parties will provide transportation.

Do not listen to rumors (whether by phone, E-mail, or in person) about when to vote, where to vote, or whom to vote for. Get good information!

If you are employed, arrange with your employer before November 4 for time off from work to go and vote. You may want to leave work mid-afternoon so that you can stay as long as necessary. Remember, by law, employers must give you "adequate" time off from work to vote. If your voting needs are not reasonably met by your employer, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for help.

If your state allows "straight ticket" voting, decide whether you want to do this. If you think that you want to vote "straight ticket" find out whether or not there are problems voting "straight ticket" in your state. (Perhaps talk with your party precinct chairperson for more information.) In North Carolina, for example, even if you vote "straight ticket," you have to vote for your presidential candidate separately. In some other states (especially using computerized voting) it is possible that voting "straight ticket" and then selecting your presidential candidate may actually undo your vote for president. Problems such as this are more common with computer voting systems.

Possible solutions to the potential problems of "straight ticket" voting are
One solution: do not vote a "straight ticket". Vote for each candidate individually.
Another solution: Whether or not you choose to vote "straight ticket," plan ahead to check your ballot very carefully before you finish voting to be sure that you actually have selected the desired candidates.

When you go to vote:

To avoid long lines, take advantage of the early voting option if it is available in your state.

Take your identification with you: your voter's registration card, your driver's license or other official picture identification, and the other documents that you gathered together earlier.

Take your list of phone numbers (hot line and campaign headquarters) and some extra paper for taking notes, if necessary.

If you vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4, 2008, go in the middle of the morning or middle of the afternoon if you can to avoid long lines.

Take your cell phone and small camera.

Go prepared to stay as long as necessary in order to vote! (Eat a good meal, take a bathroom break, and bring a good book.)

Do not wear political campaign clothing or political party identification into the election site. That is considered "electioneering" and is not allowed in the immediate vicinity of an election site.

Do not carry political information in the open. It is fine to carry printed material in your purse, pocket, or wallet and refer to it as you vote. For instance, if you have to vote on any constitutional amendments, you might want to bring a list of them with you on which you have already written your voting choice.


Election Protection Coalition: Hotline 1-866-OUR-VOTE, 1-866-687-8683. They also have a website. They can give advice and assistance before election day and on election day. If necessary they can get lawyers into polling places and/or in front of judges in real time, as the election progresses.

League of Women Voters of the United States website for ballot & polling place information. Their website on November 4 will have hot line numbers and an electronic feedback form for any voters who experience trouble at the polls.

Your local precinct chairperson and your local presidential campaign office.