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Follow the latest news and information about voting and the 2020 election, including essential information about how to vote during a pandemic and more.

A Checklist For Voting On Election Day

polling place
Santheo / Flickr

Where are you supposed to go?

Thousands of locations across the country that typically serve as polling places — private businesses, schools, community centers — have opted out this election because of COVID-19 concerns. So there’s a good chance that your polling place has changed since the last election. Confirm your polling place by checking your local elections official’s website.

Double check the required ID in your state — it might be more flexible than you think.

ID requirements for voting vary widely by state, a mixed bag that can lead voters to mistakenly believe they don’t have the required ID when they actually do.

North Carolina is considered a Non-Strict Voter ID state.

If you’re still unsure what to bring, check this chart from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Issues with registration are among the most common problems voters face at the polls.

As we covered in a previous edition, election officials regularly clean up their voter rolls to clear not only inactive voters but also those who have moved and forgotten to update their information. Voter purges, however, are prone to mistakes, sweeping eligible voters off the rolls.

Make sure you’re registered: Go to Vote411.org to verify your voter registration.

It depends where you live. Twenty states, and the District of Columbia, offer same-day registration on Election Day, allowing you to register and vote right at your polling location.

North Carolina does not allow voters to register on Election Day.

You can find more information about the laws in your state here.

If you believe your registration has been erroneously removed from the rolls and the registration deadline in your state has passed, there are still a few things you can try when you go to the polls.

  • Bring your registration card. Your unique voter ID number is very useful if there’s an issue with your registration when you show up to vote. A poll worker can use that number to check their database for your information. If you don’t have your registration card, you can bring other proof of registration, including an online confirmation of registration or the carbon copy of your registration form if you filled it out by hand. These items help show the date that you registered.
  • If your name’s not in the poll book, you have the right to get help. The poll worker should call your state or local election official to determine where and if you are registered, and direct you to vote at your correct polling place. If poll workers won’t help, you can call the Election Protection hotline for direct assistance from trained volunteers and voting rights attorneys at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). This is run by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which provides data to Electionland. You can also get help by calling the Democratic Voter Hotline, run by the Democratic National Committee, at 833-336-8683. The Republican Party is not operating a national voting hotline, but it directs voters to contact state and county Republican Party officials.
  • Request to cast a provisional ballot. If your name is not on the precinct register, and a poll worker concludes that you cannot vote by regular ballot, then you should request a provisional ballot. The Help America Vote Act requires poll workers to offer a provisional ballot to a voter if their name is not listed on the registration list. If the personal information on your provisional ballot, like your name and address, matches the details of your previous registration, you will likely be reregistered, according to Tammy Patrick, a former election official who is now a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund.
  • You might have to take some action in order for your provisional ballot to count. That could include coming to the board of election offices with proper ID within a period of time after the election. So after submitting your provisional ballot, follow up to make sure you’ve completed whatever action is required. Using the receipt you were given when submitting your provisional ballot, you should also follow up with the election office to find out if your ballot was counted.

Know Your Rights As A Voter

Voter turnout can be dampened by voter misinformation (and there’s plenty of it, as we’ve covered), not to mention logistical challenges caused by COVID-19. Knowing your rights is key to addressing additional problems you, or your fellow voters, may encounter on Election Day.

If you speak a language other than English and need help...

The rules: You’re allowed to bring someone with you if you need help reading or casting your ballot. You can get help from any person you choose (except your employer or union representative), including a child, relative or friend. Your helper does not have to be over 18 or a registered voter.You (probably) have the right to voting materials in a language other than English. Under the Voting Rights Act, any county with more than 10,000 residents whose native language is not English and who indicated on their census form a lack of proficiency in English is required to provide election materials — including notices, forms, instructions and ballots — in the communities’ identified languages.

What you can do: I realize this issue may not apply to you, reader. But if you know someone who needs help or see someone struggling at the polls, make sure they understand that, if their county does not have bilingual materials, or if they don’t have anybody to help them, they should ask for language assistance from a poll worker.If the poll workers can’t help, you can call the following Election Protection hotlines:

  • 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682; for bilingual assistance in Spanish and English)
  • 888-API-VOTE (888-273-8683; for assistance in Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese and English)
  • 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287; for bilingual assistance in Arabic and English)

If you have a disability and need an accessible voting station...

The rules: Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, polling places are required to be accessible to people with disabilities. The Help America Vote Act requires polling places to have at least one voting machine accessible to people with disabilities — a machine that can mark the ballot for someone who cannot do so, for example, and features large type for people with visual problems.

What you can do: If an ADA-compliant machine is not offered to you, you can ask for it. If the poll workers don’t know how to use the machine, you should contact the election director for your county and make them aware of the situation. You can also call one of the voter hotlines mentioned earlier for direct assistance.

If you are still waiting in line when the polls close…

The rule: Although heavy voter turnout and social distancing protocols can lead to long lines, the wait cannot strip you of your right to vote. If you are standing in line when the polls are open, you are entitled to cast your ballot — even if your wait extends past the scheduled poll closing time. Most states have laws protecting this right, explaining exactly how the last person in line is distinguished, and poll workers are instructed to allow every person already in line when the polls close to vote.

What You Can Do: If you were in line before the polls closed, and someone tries to stop you from voting, call one of the voter hotlines or your state or local election officials.

Tell WFAE about your voting experience. How were the lines? Did you need and receive assistance? Did you have difficulties? Did you feel safe? Why or why not? Submit your story here or call 704-916-9114.