By Julie Peterson
Don't count on your years of voting experience, or on Maricopa County poll workers, to help you figure out what to do at the polls tomorrow. Don't even count on being able to find your polling place.
According to Linda Brown, executive director of Arizona Advocacy Network, about 40 percemt of polling places in the county relocated between 2004 and 2006. Another 40 percent have changed venue since the 2006 general election. And former polling places don't post any signs explaining what happened.
Going to the polls is not like hitting Starbucks, folks — polling places are not interchangeable, and you'll save time and confusion by going to the right one first. So check the outside of your sample ballot or reminder postcard to confirm where you're supposed to vote — and if you don't have that information handy, look up your polling place here or call Maricopa County Elections at 602-506-3535. The number is likely to ring busy; you can also try the toll-free Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Maybe this all sounds painfully obvious to some of our readers, but thousands of legitimate ballots don't get counted, and thousands more valid votes don't get cast in the first place, because of tricky details like this. Planning ahead is more necessary than ever. In fact, once you've arrived at the correct polling place, the adventures continue.
Scroll down on this page to see what kind of ID you'll need to be packing (and remember that if you're caught short, there's a good chance that one of the List 2 items — your vehicle registration — might be right outside in the parking lot). But for real fun (or if you still have questions) check the county's FAQ on the matter, which reads like a French surrealist vaudeville routine.
So, if the Man won't let you vote, but you know you're registered (you can confirm that here), you've probably heard that you have the right to cast a provisional ballot, and if all goes smoothly (including, if you lacked ID, providing it in person by next Wednesday), your vote will count.
One tiny little thing, though: You still have to cast your provisional ballot in your actual, correct polling place, says Brown, and if poll workers let you cast it at the wrong place (as Maricopa County is reportedly still training them to allow you to do) your ballot will be discarded. So, one more time, we urge you to confirm that you're at the correct polling place for your home address before you vote. (If you've moved since you registered or last voted, or moved since October 6, check Ray Stern's post here for more details.)
Here are a few more tips to make sure things go smoothly:
* The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, you may want to cast your vote between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
* If you’re one of those wait-until-the-last-minute types, however, don’t worry. As long as you’re in line by 7 p.m., polling place workers will still let you cast your ballot. Bring a book, since you’re gonna be waiting for awhile.
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* Avoid wearing any tee shirts, buttons, stickers, or other campaign material endorsing your particular candidate or cause when entering the polling place. Election workers will probably turn you away if you do.
* Proper identification will be required in order to vote. Any government-issued ID that displays your name, current address, and a photograph is acceptable (like a driver’s license, state ID card, or tribal membership card).
* If none of those are available, you can bring any two of the following to the polls: a recent utility bill or bank statement (within 90 days of the election), a valid vehicle registration or car insurance card, a property tax statement, voter registration card, passport, Indian census card, or any election material with your name that you might’ve gotten in the mail recently.
Benjamin Leatherman contributed to this report.