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Voting guide: Preparation will help make sure votes get counted

  • Story Highlights
  • Voters can check poll locations, hours online
  • Many states require a valid ID, particularly for first-time voters
  • Absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 4
  • To avoid long lines, try to vote other than in the morning, during lunch and after work
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(CNN) -- With the voting irregularities of 2000 and 2004 fresh on their minds, many of the millions expected to go to the polls Tuesday are worried that their vote won't be counted.

Voter preparation should help avoid many of the problems that could prevent them from casting their ballots.

Voters can avoid many hassles by checking online at their local government's Web site to determine where they should go to vote, when the polls will open and close, and what they may need to bring.

Voters can often learn of the location of their proper polling place for their precinct by entering their home address., a Web site run by the League of Women Voters, can also provide voters with their correct polling location.

Voters can often check their voter registration information online. Unfortunately, the opportunity to correct the voter registration records has passed in most states.

If a voter is missing from the the voter rolls, or if his or her address is out of date, most states allow voters to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots, however, are often the first to be contested in close elections.

Voters can also avoid headaches by bringing valid government-issued identification to the polls. State regulations on voter ID requirements vary, but most at least require first-time voters to show an ID. View your state's voter ID requirements »

CNN Voter Hot Line

If you have a problem voting or see a problem, call the CNN Voter Hot Line at 877-GOCNN08 (877-462-6608); CNN will report on some of your calls, and our partner InfoVoter Technologies can help get you in touch with your election board or find your voting location.

If a voter cannot meet a state's voter ID requirements, poll workers may ask him or her to fill out a provisional ballot, which will be counted if election officials verify that it was cast by a legitimate voter.

And voters should avoid wearing campaign T-shirts, hats or buttons to the polls. Many states, including Virginia, bar campaigning near polling places, and a voter could be sent home if he or she tries to vote while wearing campaign paraphernalia.

Election officials are expecting record turnout, and many voters who have voted early, such as those in Florida, have already had to wait hours before they could vote.

Voters can avoid long lines by avoiding the polls at at peak voting hours before work in the morning, during the lunch hour and just after people get off work. Most states require employers to give workers time off to vote on Election Day.

Voters also can avoid hassles by being familiar with the ballot before they enter the voting both. Many states and local governments post sample ballots on their Web sites.

Once at the polls, make sure you are familiar with the voting system used in your precinct. Many polling places have demonstration machines that voters can try before they vote, and poll workers are usually willing to explain how a voting machine works if a voter has any questions.

Many voters are skeptical of new using new electronic voting machines. Problems with such machines have already cropped up during early voting in Florida, where voting glitches led to a highly contested recount in 2000.

If a voter does have a problem with one of the electronic voting machines, he or she should contact a poll worker on site. In most states, voters who use electronic voting machines should also receive a paper receipt of their vote that they can check.


This year, a record number of voters are using absentee ballots, and many want to make sure their votes are counted. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 4 to count.

Many states allow voters to check online whether their ballot has been counted, but voters should should wait a few days, as absentee ballots are often the last to be counted.

CNN's Carol Costello and Scott J. Anderson contributed to this report.

All About Elections and VotingU.S. Presidential Election

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