Answers to your burning Election Day questions

Angela Cunningham gives us a preview of the 2016 election with some last minute polling place tips.

LANSING - Keep that cell phone in your pocket. Cover up your campaign attire. No signs, no literature, no disruptions.

It's election time, and like it or not, there are rules to follow when you go to the polls on Tuesday.

With so much at stake in one of the most divisive and dramatic political seasons ever, there are undoubtedly questions and concerns.

Here's a Q&A guide to preparing for Election Day.

How long could the lines be at polling locations on Election Day? 

It's hard to tell, but take into consideration the number of registered voters in your area and the polling location hours. It's wise to plan ahead. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said Friday she doesn't anticipate long lines. If there are lines, Byrum said they could end up at polling locations that tend to attract first-time voters. In East Lansing, there are five voting precincts with polling locations on Michigan State University's campus.

The polls in Mid-Michigan are expected to be busy. As of Oct. 29, there were 203,985 registered voters in Ingham County, 81, 776 in Eaton County and 57,100 in Clinton County. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Lansing has 44 precincts and East Lansing has 17.

During the 2012 general election, Lansing's 27th precinct, with a citywide high 2,613 registered voters, generated a turnout of 1,192 voters. East Lansing's 15th precinct, with a citywide high 2,523 registered voters, generated a turnout of 1,404.

Are ballot selfies with cell phones allowed? 

No. Ballot "selfies" taken with a cell phone or another device are deemed illegal in Michigan. A federal court ruled last month that those who take selfies or images of their ballot and share them on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter shall not be allowed to vote in the election. The use of cell phone cameras, video cameras, still cameras, television and recording equipment in polling places is prohibited. That includes any use by designated poll challengers and watchers. There is a limited exception for news media.

What should I expect in and outside the polling location? 

If there are activities that violate voters' civil rights or create security concerns, the Michigan Secretary of State's Office advises those involved in the election process to call their local clerk's office or law enforcement. The office, like others across the country, has a formal procedure that's given to paid precinct workers. Training for local clerks is conducted by county clerks and state Bureau of Elections staff. Election workers will be at polling locations to assist voters. Registered challengers and casual poll watchers must follow rules of conduct outlined at the Secretary of State's website.

Can I wear clothing with campaign slogans, phrases or images of the candidates when I go to the polls? 

Nobody is allowed to campaign within 100 feet of the polls. State law empowers precinct workers to "maintain peace, regularity and order at the polling place," said Fred Woodhams, an spokesman for the Secretary of State's elections division. Michigan prohibits displaying election-related materials at the polls. That includes clothing and buttons for candidates or specific ballot issues and materials including pamphlets, fliers and stickers. If you wear election-related images or have these types of items you could be asked to cover or remove them.

If voters show up at 8 p.m. or after, will they still be able to vote? 

You will be able to vote if you're in line by 8 p.m. at a polling location.

Can I still vote by absentee ballot? 

Voters must have their requests for an absentee ballot received by their clerk no later than 2 p.m. Saturday. Absentee voters have until 8 p.m. on election day to complete their ballot and return it to their city or township clerk's office.

If I have already voted by absentee, can I recast my ballot if I regret the decisions I made? 

Yes, but you have to get a new ballot by 4 p.m. Monday at your local clerk's office. Once you ask for a new ballot and recast it, your old ballot won't be counted.

Do I have to fill out the entire ballot when I vote? 

No. You can pick and choose among the ballot options. The ballot will be counted even if it's not completely filled out.

What happens if I'm registered to vote but don't have a photo ID or forget to bring it with me to a polling location? 

You can vote without a photo ID. You will be asked to sign an affidavit that confirms your identity and residency. Voters without an ID can vote once the affidavit is signed, and their ballot will be counted on election day.

How can I get a photo ID before Election Day? 

An ID can be obtained at your local Secretary of State branch for $10. The ID fee can be waived for those 65 and order or those who are blind. Cards are free for those who can't drive because of a physical or mental disability. The fee can also be waved for those who present any other good cause. To get a card, proof of residency is required. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/sos or call (888) 767-6424,

What will my ballot look like? 

Ballots will be hefty, especially in Lansing, because there are a variety of choices ranging from who will be in the U.S. Congress and state Legislature to whether the city should be authorized to sell or "otherwise dispose of" a nearly century-old house in a park. You can view your sample ballot by filling out a section of the Secretary of State's website. For more information about the candidates and issues at stake on election day, visit the Lansing State Journal's Michigan election guide.

How can I check if I'm registered to vote and where my polling location is?

Visit the Secretary of State's registered voter database. As of Oct. 29, the state had 7,525,533 registered voters. According to 2015 U.S. Census data, the state's population was 9,922,576.

Can I still register to vote? 

No. The state's deadline to register for Tuesday's general election was Oct. 11.

Can I text my vote for a presidential candidate to a certain number so I don't have to go to the polls? 

No. Disregard any rumors, fake advertisements or messages on websites like Twitter or Facebook that claim that's the case. You can only vote with an absentee ballot or by filling a regular ballot out at a polling location on election day. The Washington Post warned readers this month of fake advertisements that claimed supporters of Hillary Clinton can text message their vote to a specific number. That's simply not the case.

How secure is Michigan's voting system and ballots from hacking, fraud, etc.?

The Secretary of State's website calls Michigan the most decentralized election system in the nation. It is one of eight states that administer election on the local level, with 83 county clerks, 274 city clerks and 1,242 township clerks, who keep voter registration records and oversee elections in their jurisdictions. Potential hacking of vote tabulator machines appears unlikely, according to election officials, because they can't be accessed over the internet. All Michigan voters use optical scan ballots which require voters to either darken an oval or connect the head and tail of an arrow next to each ballot choice. The ballots are then fed into the tabulator. Tabulators aren't accessible by the internet.

(2016 © Lansing State Journal)


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