Voting 101: A guide for the polling place

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday, August 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:26 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Timely advice for voters in Missouri’s primary elections today:

Double-check where you are supposed to vote.

Bring proper identification.

And if you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for help.

Democracy is defined by what happens today.

So, here’s information to help in navigating the election process:

Who may vote in the primaries?

Any registered Missouri voter.

Because the state doesn’t require party registration, voters may ask for any political party’s ballot, even if they have voted in other party primaries in past elections.

You may only vote in one party’s primary.

Or, you may choose a nonpartisan ballot that lists only ballot issues, not candidates.

To vote today, you must have been registered by July 7. Deadlines have also passed for being able to vote by mailed ballot.

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren predicts about 32,000 voters, or 44 percent of the 73,034 active registered voters in the county, will go to the polls today. That would contrast sharply with the county’s primary turnout in August 2000, which fell short of 13,000 voters.

Noren said Monday that 2,721 had been cast in advance of today’s primary. She said last week that the staff had set a record last Tuesday by processing 323 absentee ballots in a single day.

How do I vote?

At the polls, you will encounter election judges and poll workers, whose job is to help guide you through the process, although your voting choices are up to you alone.

You will be asked for proper identification. A driver’s license or voter ID card will do.

Voting methods vary.

Seventy Missouri jurisdictions use paper ballots with votes cast by using a marker or pencil to darken blank ovals next to your choice. These ballots are fed into computer scanners, which count the votes.

Incomplete or multiple marks in the same race can keep your vote from being counted by the scanner.

Noren said she constantly reminds voters to NOT make a check mark on optical-scanned ballots, “even though many candidates’ posters and signs depict check marks next to their names, so it seems like the thing to do. We want their vote to count, so fill in that oval completely.”

Who’s in charge?

Voting is overseen by local election authorities — 116 of them statewide, covering every county plus the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City. They count the votes and report them to the secretary of state’s office.

The secretary of state eventually oversees certification of the election results, declaring the outcomes valid.

And remember ...

If you make a mistake in marking your ballot, ask for a new one. Poll workers set aside spoiled or damaged ballots and will give you a fresh one. DON’T try to mark out a choice and make another mark in the same race, or your vote might not count.

Several polling places have been added or changed across the county. To find out where you should vote, call the clerk’s office at 886-4375. If you didn’t register by the July 7 deadline to vote in the primaries, you have until Oct. 6 to register for the big show — the Nov. 2 general election.

— Missourian reporter Sarah Poston contributed to this report.

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