Avoiding long poll lines, and other tips to ease the way on Election Day

November 02, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com

A record number of Marylanders are expected to vote Tuesday. Here are answers to common questions and tips on how to zip in and out of the polls.

1. Am I registered to vote? And if so, where am I registered?

To find out, go to the Maryland State Board of Elections Web site: www.elections.state.md.us.

Click on the "FIND OUT HERE" link at the top of the page. Then, click on "Name Search" and fill in your name, date of birth and ZIP code.

If you're registered, your name, address and precinct information will appear.

If you no longer live at the address where you are registered, see Question 7.

2. What if I'm not registered? Can I still vote?

No. Maryland's voter registration deadline passed last month.

3. When are the polls open?

From 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will get to vote.

4. How can I avoid long lines?

Vote between noon and 3 p.m. Precinct traffic mirrors highway traffic. Congestion peaks during morning and evening rush hours, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

5. How can I avoid contributing to long lines?

Mark up the sample ballot you received in the mail and bring it into the voting booth.

Baltimore's ballot, for example, has 16 questions in addition to candidates for president, Congress and other offices.

The average unprepared voter will take 9 minutes to complete the ballot, said John T. Willis, a professor at the University of Baltimore and former Maryland secretary of state.

"Studies have shown that anyone who spends more than four or five minutes on a machine is going to create backups," he said.

If you discarded your sample ballot, you can print one from the Internet. Follow the instructions from Question 1. When your voter registration information appears, click on the "sample ballot" link.

6. I hear many people around the nation are voting early. Can I do that in Maryland?

No. An early voting statute passed by the General Assembly was ruled unconstitutional. Tuesday you'll get a chance to decide whether the state should allow early voting in the future.

7. What if I can't make it to the polls Tuesday? Can I vote absentee?

Yes, but you have to go to your local board of elections in person to pick up an absentee ballot.

8. What machines are we voting on this time?

The same ones as last time - the machines that work like ATMs. If you haven't voted recently, here is a link to a video demonstrating how the touch-screen machines work: www.mdvotes.org/demo.php

9. What do I need to bring with me to vote?

Most voters are not required to show identification. Just give the poll worker your name, and they'll ask you to confirm your date of birth.

First-time Maryland voters may have to show identification.

To learn the state's identification requirements, call your local elections board or go to the State Board of Elections Web site ( www.elections.state.md.us).

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