A Voter's Guide: From Absentee Ballots to Photo IDs You may know which candidates to vote for, but do you know how to vote in your precinct? We have resources that will help you figure out all the rules.

A Voter's Guide: From Absentee Ballots to Photo IDs

Florida is one of the states that allows voters to cast an early ballot in person. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s Election Day, and you know which candidates you want to vote for. But do you know whether you'll be able to cast your ballot?

Voters could be turned away if they're not on the list of registered voters or don't bring proper identification, says Doug Chapin, director of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan Web site that provides information on election reform. Here’s a step-by-step guide to "voting education" -- how to find out local regulations before heading to the polls.

Make sure you know where to vote. Polling places are listed state-by-state at CanIVote.org, a nonprofit Web site run by the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Verify your voter registration information. Find out whether you are registered from CanIVote.org.

Make sure the name on your ID matches your voter registration. Some states require an exact match between a voter's photo ID and the name on their voter registration. If these names do not match, voters may have to cast a provisional ballot. "Don't wait until Election Day to figure it out," advises Chapin. "Call your local election office."

In general, bringing a photo ID is a good idea. Florida and Indiana, for example, require photo ID of all voters. (Without it, you'll only be offered a provisional ballot.) Nineteen states require either photo or nonphoto ID to vote. In 27 states, only first-time voters need an ID. Georgia and Missouri's ID requirements may change before Election Day. To find out your state's requirements, visit Electionline.org’s ID Page.

Get to know your machine. Some jurisdictions offer Web sites with videos to orient voters to various voting machines. Visit Electionline.org’s Voting Systems Page to find out which machine your precinct uses. Jurisdictions may also set aside training machines at the polls. Don’t be afraid to ask for a practice run!


If casting an absentee ballot, visit Electionline.org’s Early and Absentee Voting Page:

Check your state's rules about absentee ballots. You may be required to file a specific excuse -- like temporary or permanent illness, jury duty or religious reasons that prevent you from going to the polls. Fifteen states do not allow absentee voting.

Request absentee voting status on time. Deadlines vary by state.

Determine when and how to submit your ballot. Some states allow absentee votes in person, in advance of Election Day. Others require voters to mail in ballots. Oregon alone requires that all votes be submitted by mail.

If polling officials won’t let you vote on Election Day -- because of questions about your ID or because you are not on their list of registered voters -- you always have the right to request a provisional ballot, says Chapin. But make sure you're in the right polling place. In most states, a provisional vote in the wrong precinct won't count.