A quick guide for voters


Election 2008

November 04, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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

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 10.

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

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

When are the polls open?

From 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. today. Anyone in line at 8 p.m. will be able to vote.

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.

How can I avoid creating long lines?

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

In addition to the candidates for president, Congress and other offices, Baltimore's ballot includes a charter amendment and 15 bond questions. The average unprepared voter will take 8 minutes to get through them, said John T. Willis, a professor at the University of Baltimore and former 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 tossed your sample ballot in the garbage, 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.

I hear that 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. Today, you'll get a chance to decide whether the state should allow early voting in the future.

What if I can't make it to the polls today? Can I vote absentee?

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

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

What do I need to take with me to vote?

For most Marylanders, nothing. 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 might have to show identification. To learn the state's identification requirements, call your local Board of Elections or go to the state Board of Elections Web site (www.elections.state.md.us).

Can I vote anywhere I want?

Not if you want your ballot counted.

Because of a ruling from the state's highest court, you've got to vote in the election district and ward in which you live. If you no longer live at the address where you are registered to vote:

1. Go to the state Board of Elections Web site and click "FIND OUT HERE."

2. Instead of clicking "name search," click "address search." Enter your new address and click "locate a polling place." Your new precinct will appear.

3. On Election Day, go to that precinct and vote by provisional ballot. DO NOT go to your old precinct.

Again, if your registration is out of date, vote where you live, not where you're registered. If you don't have access to the Internet, call your local Board of Elections. Officials there will tell you what precinct to go to.

Can I wear my Sarah-cuda T-shirt to the polls?

Yes, voters are permitted to wear campaign merchandise. But don't linger around after you vote, or a poll worker will ask you to leave.

If my house is in foreclosure, will I be able to vote?

Absolutely. Maryland's Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has said rumors that people who have lost their homes can't vote are untrue and "repugnant."

Computers are evil. I want to speak to a real person.

Great news for people wary of the Internet. The state Board of Elections has contracted out incoming calls to a call center that can handle a larger volume of requests, said Ross Goldstein, the state's deputy elections director.

Boards of Election in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties have joined the state program, Goldstein said. The number is 800-222-8683.

Are absentee ballots always counted?

Yes, but after Election Day.

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