Raleigh, N.C. — So you're heading to the polls on Tuesday? Sure, more than 2 million people voted early, but you're a traditionalist.
Election officials around the state are ready for you but they have some advice, and it starts with taking a few minutes to know your polling location.
"You have to go to your home precinct to vote," said Gary Sims, deputy director of the Wake County Board of Elections.
During the early voting period that ended over the weekend, voters could stop at any open voting site in their county to cast a ballot. That's not the case on Tuesday.
"That's the big thing," said Glenda Clendenin, director of the Moore County board of elections. "On Election Day, they must go to their home precinct."
If you don't know where your correct precinct is, the State Board of Elections has a handy online look-up tool.
There is some small amount of wiggle room on this rule (see below at the **). But if you want to make sure you can vote in all the races from president on down the ballot, finding your right precinct will save all concerned time and headaches.
And once you know where you're going, there are a few other things to keep in mind:
NO MORE ONE-STOP: During the early voting period, you could register to vote and cast your ballot all in one stop. For those going to vote, you had to be registered to vote 25 days before Election Day.
NO ID FOR MOST VOTERS: Most voters can leave their identification, photo or otherwise, at home. The only exception to this rule is if you are a first-time voter who didn't provide adequate proof of who you were when you registered to vote or if your documentation didn't check out all the way.
AVOID RUSH HOUR: Polling places will be busiest first thing in the morning before work (6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.), around lunch time (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and in the hours between the end of work and when the polls close (5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) For those in a hurry, avoid these rush hours. Election workers stress, however, that if you are in line by the time the polls close at the end of the day, you should be allowed to vote.
CHECK OUT A SAMPLE BALLOT AT HOME: "Know what your choices are before you leave home," says Gary Bartlett, director of the state board of elections. This will save you time in the polling place. It will also keep you from being at the mercy of partisan campaign workers thrusting literature your way as you walk into the polling place. Print a sample ballot
REDISTRICTING: In 2011, state lawmakers redrew legislative boundaries for state House, state Senate and Congress. County Boards of Commissioners also redrew some local boundaries as well. As you're checking out your ballot at home, you may find out your voting for a difference Congressman or local lawmaker than you are used to.
READ THE INSTRUCTIONS: Election officials say voters can save themselves time and trouble by reading the instructions at the top of their ballot. Those instructions will contain useful reminders.
IF YOU'RE VOTING ON PAPER: For those voting in Wake and other counties where paper bubble sheets are in use, election officials remind voters that they should flip their ballots over. There are choices to make front and back.
IF YOU'RE VOTING ON A TOUCH SCREEN: For those voting in counties like Cumberland and Guilford where touch-screen machines are in use, election officials urge you to review your choices thoroughly before hitting the "submit" button. There have been reports of voting machines that get out of calibration and will accidentally switch a vote from one candidate to another. If your machine doesn't properly display your choices, call a poll worker for help. Don't cast your vote until your ballot is they way you want it to look.
VOTE FOR PRESIDENT: Even if you cast a straight-party ticket, you must vote for president separately.
JUDGES, BALLOT ISSUES AND OTHER NON-PARTISAN RACES: Those casting straight party ballots also have to cast separate votes for judicial races – which are technically nonpartisan – and ballot initiatives, such as the Wake County Community College bond referendum.
BEWARE: Bartlett recently told WRAL News that 2012 has been marked by a number of scams, misinformation tactics "and more what I call intimidation or suppression than any time during my tenure."
If someone tells you that you can vote by phone, that people of one party vote on a different day than everyone else, or that those with outstanding parking tickets or fines can't vote, they're lying to you. Voters who hear something fishy should check with their local boards of election.
NO PHOTOS: You are not allowed to take photos of your ballot. In fact, voters are not supposed to bring camera-equipped smart phones into polling places. However, you ARE allowed to bring a paper list of your choices into the polling place, as long as you don't show it to anyone else and don't leave it behind.
BE KIND: "We've had half a dozen fights that have broken out, and it's not even Election Day," Bartlett said. There's a lot of passion surrounding this election, but election officials say that everyone would do well to be respectful of one another. "What we need is more civility and understanding," he said.
** Regarding voters who show up in the wrong precinct on Election Day, State Elections Director Gary Bartlett says this: "If a voter is not in the right precinct, they have two options by law. One, go to their precinct and vote the full ballot they are entitled. Two, vote at the precinct where they present themselves. They will vote a provisional ballot and only the offices that they are entitled to vote for will count. Most confusion occurs when an Election Day voter goes to a one-stop absentee voting site that is an Election Day polling place."