These steps can smooth voting process

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2008

By Bob Hall
For the Salisbury Post
Whether you are registered to vote or not, the One-Stop Early Voting centers now open until May 3 can be a convenient way to participate in North Carolina’s hot primary election. More than two million people are expected to turn out, a state record and a good reason to be toward the head of the line.
The Early Voting centers are especially helpful if you’ve moved within your county and have not updated your registration ó or if you missed the regular deadline to register as a first-time voter.
Here are eight steps to make the voting process easier for you.
– Location: Learn when and where Early Voting centers are open in your county by going to www.2008ElectionConnection.com. Some sites within the same county have different hours or don’t open until a week before the May 6 election. (In Rowan, the early voting sites are: Board of Elections, 130 W. Innes St.; the East Branch Library, 110 Broad St., Rockwell; and the Tadlock South Rowan Library, 920 Kimball Road, China Grove. All are open as of today.)
– Best time to vote: If you have flexibility in your schedule, the best time to visit an Early Voting center is during the mid-morning or mid-afternoon hours on a week day. Centers are most crowded on Saturdays.
– Same-Day Registration: If you’re a citizen who will be at least 18 on Nov. 4 (even if you are 17 now), you still have time to register. A new law allows you to go to any Early Voting center in your county, show an ID with your current address, fill out the registration form, and vote ó all at same time. (You cannot do this on Election Day itself.) The list of acceptable IDs is on the 2008ElectionConnection website. To speed up the process, you can download a registration form from the website, fill it out and take it with you to the Early Voting center
– Know your ballot: You can preview the entire ballot you will see when you vote by following the directions in the box on www.2008ElectionConnection.com. You can also see your normal polling place, where you would go on May 6.
– Know the candidates: Web sites of media outlets, the political parties, League of Women Voters, other groups and the candidates give loads of information. See www.unctv.org/election for debates and interviews with many state candidates. The State Board of Elections publishes a guide to statewide judicial candidates in primary contests.
– Know your rights: If you make a mistake on your ballot, you can ask for another one. If you’re registered as “unaffiliated,” you can ask to receive the primary ballot of either party. If you’re an ex-felon, you can register and vote if you’ve served all parts of your sentence, including probation. If you have a disability, you have a right to a voting machine that allows you to vote on your own. Anyone also has a right to receive assistance from a friend (not your employer) or an elections official.
– Provisional ballot: If the election official says your name is not on the rolls or you have any other problem at the polls, ask to use Same-Day Registration (if you’re voting early) or ask for a provisional ballot. You will be given a toll-free number or another way to find out if the ballot was counted after officials research your status.
– Absentee ballot: If you don’t want to hassle with lines, you can mail a request for an absentee ballot to your local board of elections by April 29, then mail the ballot back so it is received by May 5. Carefully follow the directions on 2008ElectionConnection website.
Following these steps should make the voting experience easier ó even if your favorite candidate doesn’t win! A healthy democracy depends on participation and vigilance. Getting more people involved helps everyone.
One final step: If you have problems while voting that are not addressed by election officials, you can call an “Election Protection” hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE. Exercise your right and your responsibility ó vote now, vote forever.
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Bob Hall is executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan elections reform organization based in Durham. Its comprehensive website on registering and voting is at www.2008ElectionConnection.com.

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