RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And one thing about voting these days, there's lots of ways to find out the basics: where to vote, if you're still registered, things like that. Websites, Twitter feeds, and mobile phone apps are all out there to help you.
NPR's Pam Fessler has more.
PAM FESSLER: Just about every election office in the country these days has a website where you can get basic information - like polling times and how to cast your ballot. Many can also direct you to your polling site and, if you provide some personal information, tell you whether you're officially registered.
Some national sites help fill in the gaps.
Mr. DOUG CHAPIN (Pew Center on the States): So I'm a voter and I don't know where to vote. And so I say, where do I vote in Virginia?
FESSLER: Doug Chapin is director of election initiatives with the Pew Center on the States. He shows how you can ask a very simple question on Google, or some other search engine, and get a lot of useful information.
Mr. CHAPIN: The top result is the Virginia State Board of Elections, which I click on...
FESSLER: And the homepage shows a big box with a map that will not only list your polling site, but how to get there. It can also help you find out if you're registered, and show you the federal candidates on your ballot. It's part of something called the Voting Information Project, developed by Pew and Google. They also have a mobile phone app that provides similar information, including a photo of your polling site. Chapin says in theory at least...
Mr. CHAPIN: Giving people a convenient source of official information should reduce the number of problems at the polls, misdirected voters, confused voters, that sort of thing.
Mr. LESTER SOLA (Supervisor of Elections, Miami-Dade County): For us it's proven very beneficial.
FESSLER: Lester Sola is supervisor of elections for Miami-Dade County, Florida. He says he's already seeing better prepared voters this year because of information posted on his county's website. It included wait times - updated every 15 minutes - for the county's early voting locations. Miami-Dade voters can also track their absentee ballots online - whether the ballots have been received yet by election officials and whether they're ever counted.
Sola says that's a big change.
Mr. SOLA: There was no way for a voter to track their absentee ballot previously. If they wanted to know if their ballot was accepted, they would have to call our office and then research would have to be made, sometimes even actually going through thousands of envelopes to find that one voter.
FESSLER: The county, like many others, is also using Twitter and Facebook this year. Just last week, Sola's office tweeted that Miami Heat basketball star Dwyane Wade had voted early, in the hope it would encourage others to do the same.
Mr. SOLA: Anything that we can do to increase voter participation, we're behind and support it.
FESSLER: And there are other tools available for voters to use today. Orange County, California will be posting live video of its workers counting votes. And a poll-watching effort called Election Protection is asking voters to tweet any Election Day problems they encounter, like long lines or intimidation.
Another group, called American Majority Action, is providing a free mobile phone app so voters can report any incidents of fraud they see at the polls. Ned Ryun is a leader of the group.
Mr. NED RYUN (American Majority Action): We're putting this out as a civic service to make sure that we enable greater transparency and just to make sure that we're defending democracy.
FESSLER: Although some people question whether lots of citizens armed with smart phones at the polls will enhance or impede democracy. You might want to check first online to see what restrictions there are on using phones or taking photos at your polling site.
Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.
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