Original content from | Commercial Services | Talent Partnerships
Your epoints

How do I know when and where to vote?

Election Day

Thea Brodkin (Voter Service Chair) gives expert video advice on: How do I know when and where to vote?; How do I know what election literature is legit?; How do I know what I can vote for in an election? and more...

What if I don't understand something in my sample ballot?

You could always call the League of Women Voters, because they have people that study everything on the ballot. That's a good way to start. You could call your political party, they'll tell you how they want you to vote. There are other organizations of course. There's a lot of organizations on specific issues, that will inform you why they're supporting, or why they're opposing something. In the ballot book, there's a list of the people that have submitted the arguments, pro and con, and they will give you the names and the names of the organizations. So you can go on the website or you could give them a call.

Am I supposed to know about everyone who is up for election?

No! I don't think humanly possible. There are so many people on the ballads, I think you do the best you can. And I always tell my classes and my students it's okay to leave it blank. I'd rather leave it blank than vote for somebody because I liked his name better than the other guy.

Do I have to vote on everything in an election?

Oh-no! Your ballot will count even if you vote for one thing on the ballot or the whole ballot, the ballot counts. We even have people that go to the election, and vote - they go into the polling booth and they hand in a ballot but that ballot's blank. And sometimes we think it's a malfunctioning machine but it's often not. Those people don't really want to make a choice, but they want to vote. They actually have proof that this happens.

Do I need to show my ID to vote?

This is also a very controversial issue. There is legislation at the federal and in the state level to require voters to either show a picture ID or even proof of citizenship in some states. What California says or other states that don't have an ID requirement is we've already check that personal when they registered we have their self security number we have there. So they don't have to show ID at the polls in California. However, I think most of people, I have work in many many polling places and most people open their wallet when they go to vote and show you your drivers license and most poll workers are very happy they do that not supposed there checking whether legal or not but they can get that spelling of their names easier if they see it in writing. So if people bring their sample ballot or drivers license its easier for the poll worker to find their name in the roster. However, it's not required the only people that have to show an identification at the polls in California are people that voted for the first time and registered by mail. This might change this is something that's being look at it in all fifty states right now.

Can I bring notes or reference materials with me when I vote?

One of the really good things is to mark your ballad at home, that's what I do, I put all of my information on the dining room table and I look at all the whatever says that, and then I make my right decisions and I mark it in my sample ballad. And I bring that to the poles because that, when I go into the voting booth it'll make it easier and faster for me to make my selection. Especially if there's a long line of people waiting to vote. We hope people make theirdecisions before coming to vote.

Why is my vote secret?

Yor vote Is secret & It's a long tradition in our country that your vote is your own and is nobody else's business. We've all heard those harsh stories of people buying people's votes, going into the bars and saying “I'll pay you $10 if you vote for Kennedy.” That may have been in the old days that may have happen, I'm not saying it didn't, but today when you go into the voting booth or you get your ballot sent to you at home, you have that right to make this decision, nobody can tell you how to vote. So it's important that nobody can check on how you vote. And when that ballot arrives at the Register's office, they can identify it is belonging to you so once you drop that ballot in the ballot box, we don't know which ballot is yours. Now you can call the Registrar of Voters after the election and they'll know if you voted or not because you've signed that register or not so they keep record of that they brought primary, they'll know that but they won't know who I voted for. So that's very important for our democracy.

What kind of voting equipment will I use?

The new trend in the United States, after the federal government got into the election process by offering states money to improve their voting equipment, a lot of states went to electric voting machines. There's been a lot of controversy about how secure they are and how safe they are. I don't want to get into that, but of course the League of Women Voters wants your vote to be secure. They want it to be countable, they want a recount, here in California. Every machine that's used in every county has a paper trail. Other states are looking at that. Optical scan systems are computer cards where you mark at the polls, usually by pen, and your selections are fed into a central computer at the headquarters on election night. And even mail-in ballots are counted that way. They are computer cards. That's what they call an optical scan. New York state still uses a lever section, where you go in to vote and you put little levers down and then you pull a great big bar and that records your vote. So there's all kinds of equipment out there. It all has to be certified.

What if I don't know how to use the voting equipment?

Any pollworker will be so happy to show it to you. Of course you will be sent information in the mail with your sample ballot, how to use the machine. The election officials try to make it as simple as possible. Even the touch screens and electronic voting machines are quite simple, like an ATM touch choice. You can change it. You can say no. There's ways of changing your vote. It doesn't count until you hit "cast my ballot" so you can ask for a new ballot if you make a mistake. There's a lot of choices.

What if I can't make it to the polling place on Election Day?

There are lots of ways to vote. If you can't make it to the polling place on election day. You would request an absentee ballot. There's a deadline. It's seven days before the election usually. You can go to early voting centers. You can go to the election official office, and say I'm going to be out of town, can I have an absentee ballot. So, there are ways to vote even if you can't get to the polling place on election day.

How does an absentee ballot work?

More and more people are voting absentee. What that means is you apply. You fill out a postcard or you write a letter or you call, and you tell the election official in your area that you want to vote by mail. Different states have different rules, but in California you don't have to have an excuse. A lot of people like it because they can vote at home with all their information in front of them. It's like a take home exam and then you just stick it in the mail, as long as it's a signed envelope. It has to arrive at the election office by 8 o'clock the night of the election. Then it will count. There are people that vote absentee early, like a month before the election and then, oh, I've changed my mind. Then it's too late. You can't vote twice. So when you vote absentee, just think that's my final vote.