Democracy 101: Getting Out To Vote
This is part of our election-year civics series, Democracy 101. Click here to find more of our stories about important issues in North Carolina politics.
Election Day is Tuesday, and after a long campaign cycle, it’s finally time for voters to have their say.
North Carolinians came out in record numbers to vote early this year, but if you’re preparing to go to the polls on the traditional day, you might have a few questions about how the process is supposed to go.
After all, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to focus on making the important decisions you’ll face when you have the ballot in front of you.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt is helping us out today, and he says he and his team are ready to see you.
“Oh yeah, we’re ready,” Collicutt says. “We have nearly 1,400 officials trained and ready to go, voting machines ready to go, all the supplies are out there. We’re ready.”
The Big Day
To start, let’s have him walk us through what happens when you head to your precinct.
According to Collicut, once you arrive, you’ll probably see some folks outside electioneering: handing out flyers for candidates last minute. They’re allowed to do that, but they have to stay a certain distance away from the entrance to the precinct.
You can stop and talk to them, or you can keep on trucking. Collicutt describes what should happen once you’re inside.
“You’ll go in and you’ll first see one of our check-in officials where you’ll be asked for your name and where you live, which you’ll give them,” he says.
“Once you’ve done that, here in Guilford County, you’ll be taken to one of our voting machines where one of our clerks will set you up on a voting machine. You’ll vote. You’ll review your selections. You’ll cast that vote. And then you’re done. It’s that simple.”
According to Collicutt and others, the process is similar across North Carolina. Depending on where you live, the biggest difference may be that your county uses paper ballots.
What If I Moved?
Let’s throw out some hypotheticals, a few common questions voters might have about election day.
For example, if you’ve changed addresses this year, can you still cast a ballot?
“If you’re within the same county, and you’ve moved to a different address in the same county, you’re going to be able to vote,” Collicutt says. “We want you to vote, we want to get you to the right place, voting on the candidates that are your appropriate candidates for where you live now.”
Another question that Collicutt says has been causing some confusion: among the six constitutional questions on the ballot, there’s one about voter ID. But do you currently have to show an ID to vote?
The short answer: probably not.
“Most voters won’t have to show any ID at all. No photo ID, no nothing,” Collicutt explains. “There is a very small subset of first-time voters that, depending on how they registered, might have to show some kind of ID. But it’s not this stringent ID that people think of. It can be a utility bill or a paycheck or a driver’s license.”
So, while it’s always a good idea to have some kind of ID with you, you probably won’t have to show it at your polling place.
Cell Phones and Selfies
Speaking of having things with you, let’s talk about what you can bring along. After all, there are a lot of big decisions to make during this election, both in terms of issues and candidates.
“You can bring notes in, you can bring a sample ballot, you can bring in your pre-filled in sample ballot, you can look at an image of a sample ballot on your cell phone,” Collicutt says. “But what you cannot do is actively be texting somebody about who to vote for, or be talking to somebody on the phone."
In fact, not only can you have your phone with you (as long as you’re using it legally), you actually can commemorate the moment with a photo to score all those digital high-fives from your friends. But be very careful about it.
“You can take a selfie, but you cannot take a picture of your voted ballot. So if you want to do it, you can take a picture, but make sure the screen or the bubbles on your ballot are not visible in that picture,” Collicutt adds.
Just to underscore the point: it is illegal in North Carolina to take a photo of a voted ballot, so maybe take your selfie outside once you get your “I Voted” sticker.
Your Vote Matters
The moral of the story is this: your local election officials are there to make sure everything goes smoothly, and they’ll do what they can to ensure your vote gets counted.
So if you have a question about anything election-related, don’t be a stranger.
“If you’re not sure if you’re registered or the status of your registration, call the local board of elections office,” Collicut says. “Or you can go online to the county or the state board of elections website and try to figure it out.”
So that’s it. All that’s left to do is head to the polls and make your voice heard. And no matter who you vote for, get to your precinct and cast a ballot so you can wear that special sticker with pride.