Pac the Polls: Voting Info Toolkit via Rock the Vote
The following are frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding researching one's ballot and the power of just one vote, provided by Rock the Vote. Visit rockthevote.org for more information and resources.
𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗩𝗢𝗧𝗘!
Looking for voting locations on a Pac-12 campus? Look no further! 🗳️⤵️
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) November 7, 2022
Election Day: Frequently Asked Questions
When is Election Day?
Election Day is on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, although election season started weeks before (depending on the state) as voters have been casting early and absentee ballots. With alternative options to voting, Election Day essentially serves as the end of election season.
When and where do I vote on Election Day?
Polling locations and hours vary depending on where you’re registered to vote. Be careful not to assume that your polling location is the same as it has been in past elections – locations have been known to change!
To learn your polling location and hours for voting, check out Rock the Vote’s Polling Place Look-Up Tool.
What do I need to bring with me?
Many, but not all, states require you to show ID before voting, and states’ guidelines vary in terms of strictness and photo requirements. Visit rockthevote.org to find out your state’s ID requirements to vote.
If you filled out a sample ballot prior to voting, you should bring that with you to the polls. Your voting experience will be much more efficient if you have already selected your choices. Check out your ballot and find out who most aligns with your values using Rock the Vote's Ballot and Endorsement Look-up Tool.
What should I wear to vote?
Most states ban electioneering and campaigning within a certain radius of polling locations, which means you can’t wear anything that is explicitly for/against a candidate, campaign, or political party. General pro-voting messaging is completely acceptable, so feel free to sport your Rock the Vote swag!
What are other things I should do to prepare to vote?
Lines might be long at some polling locations on Election Day, so you should proactively try to address any scheduling conflicts ahead of time. Here are some examples to think about:
Arrange your work schedule to make sure you can take off to vote
Talk with your teachers and professors about your intention to vote and the unknowns with regard to how long it may take
Don’t schedule any plans that might force you to decide between canceling and voting
Arrange flexible childcare so that you can still vote should the lines be longer than expected
What if I run into problems when I’m trying to vote?
Before you go to vote, save the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) in your phone’s contacts under “voting” or “elections” - something you’ll remember. If you’re having any troubles at the polls, call that number and their team of trained volunteers will answer your questions and record any issues so that voting rights organizations can track and address trouble areas.
What are poll workers?
Poll workers, also known as election judges, are regular people just like us who sign up to help in an election. They are well-meaning citizens and performing an important civic function, and many are well-trained and experienced. Some, however, might be relying on outdated or misguided information. That’s why it’s important for you to be familiar with the voting policies in your state/county and to know your rights so you can advocate for yourself if you believe your poll worker is giving you wrong information. When in doubt, call the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) to find out your rights.
What if I’m waiting in line when the polls close?
We expect long lines on Election Day. If the polls close while you’re still in line, stay in line – you have every right to cast your ballot. If someone tries to make you get out of line, do not. Instead, call 866-OUR-VOTE to report the incident.
What should I do if I witness or encounter voter intimidation?
Voter intimidation is against the law. Do not tolerate it. Local election officials and law enforcement have a responsibility to protect voters from intimidation of any kind. Voter intimidation can happen at the polling place or at designated ballot drop boxes. Here are some examples of voter intimidation to look out for:
Persons attempting to interrupt or intimidate voters by questioning, challenging, photographing, or videotaping them at a polling place
Aggressively questioning voters about their political choices, citizenship, criminal record, or qualifications to vote
Physically blocking someone from voting or entering a polling place
Yelling at people or using any threatening gestures
Spreading false information about voting requirements
Falsely representing oneself as an election official
Displaying false or misleading signs about voter fraud or potential criminal penalties.
What is a provisional ballot?
Provisional ballots help ensure voters are not excluded from the voting process due to an administrative error. A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when the eligibility of a voter is in question and needs to be resolved before the vote is counted.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 guarantees that a voter is entitled to vote using a provisional ballot if the voter states they are entitled to a vote. Some states call provisional ballots “challenge ballots” or “affidavit ballots”.
Individuals may be asked to complete a provisional ballot if there is uncertainty about the voter’s eligibility. This would include cases in which the potential voter’s name is not on the voter rolls; required documentation in the state such as an acceptable form of identification or proof of residency is not presented when trying to vote; or even if records show the potential voter received a mail-in ballot.
In most states, provisional ballots are kept separate from other ballots until after the election and a determination is made as to whether each voter was eligible to vote, and therefore if the ballot should be counted. Usually within the first day or two after an election, election officials will investigate the provisional ballots to determine eligibility. Voters who used a provisional ballot can and should proactively reach out to their election official to provide information or documentation to help resolve questions about their eligibility to vote.
What should I do if I’m told that I need to use a provisional ballot to vote?
Each election, voters are told they need to complete a provisional ballot, when they could have used a regular ballot. Don’t simply accept a provisional ballot.
Call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR VOTE to explain the situation and see if you should vote using a regular or provisional ballot.
What should I do if I’m turned away from the polls?
If you’re told that you cannot vote using a regular ballot, you should state that you are entitled to a vote and ask for a provisional ballot. If there are any issues with this, call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR VOTE.
How do I create a plan to vote on Election Day?
I will go to the polls on Tuesday, November 8th at ___:___ AM/PM (time).
My Election Day polling place is ____________________________(specific location). I will get there by _________________________________ (mode of transportation).
I looked up ID requirements in my state:
Yes, I have the ID I need to vote
No, I don’t have the ID required to vote, but I will get it immediately.
I saved the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) in my contacts:
Yes, I saved it under a name I’d remember like “Voting Hotline”!
Not yet, but I’m doing that right now!
I know what’s on my ballot, who I am voting for and what ballot measures I support. I have a voting cheat sheet on hand for when I fill out my ballot.
Yes! I am ready to Rock the Vote!
Not yet, but I’ll have one ready by ____________(date) so I can make an informed vote.
I have made a voting pack list to make sure I have what I need to vote safely and to make sure I’m prepared to stay in line for hours if needed.
Yes, I have packed what I need to stay in line for hours if need be
No, I am making my list right now.
I have made arrangements with my ____________________ (teachers, professors, work, friends, child care, family, etc.) to make sure my other obligations are covered so I can wait and cast my vote no matter how long it takes.
I voted. Is there anything I should do now?
Make sure your vote is counted!
If you voted by mail or absentee, track your ballot or contact your local election official to confirm your ballot was received and counted. Most states have online platforms that serve as the one-stop shop for ballot tracking. Find yours using Rock the Votes Ballot Tracking tool.
If you had to cast a provisional ballot, be sure to follow up with your local elections office to resolve any questions about your eligibility and learn if your vote will be counted. Find contact information for your local election official using Rock the Vote’s Election Official Look-up Tool.
If there are any outstanding questions about the legitimacy of your ballot for any reason at all, your local election office may contact you via email or mail to resolve the issue. There are a limited number of days to respond since election officials have to count the ballots by a certain deadline. Although timelines vary by location, the deadline is usually within the first 24 to 72 hours after an election.
Research Your Ballot: Frequently Asked Questions
What will be on my ballot?
Ballots range significantly based on where you are registered and plan to vote. A ballot may include:
- Federal candidates, such as Senators and U.S. Representatives;
- Judicial candidates, such as State Supreme Court Judges, Appellate Judges, and trial judges
- Statewide candidates, such as Governor, State Attorney, or Secretary of State;
- State candidates, such as State Senator and State Representative
- County candidates, such as County Executive, County Clerks
- Municipal candidates, such as Mayor, City Council Members, School Boards
- Ballot measures that range from state law to local mileages
To reduce the costs and increase turnout, many local and state governments hold their elections at the same time as federal elections - in even years.
Why should I know what’s on my ballot before I cast my vote?
When you know Research Your Ballot before you cast your vote, you can:
- Conduct research on everything you have the option to vote on ensuring you can vote the entire ballot
- Look up complicated legal jargon to better understand what you are actually voting on
- Identify who/what most aligns with your ballot to cast an informed vote
You can bring notes or a completed sample ballot for reference when you vote in person. If you are voting by mail, you can research with your actual ballot in hand!
What is a sample ballot?
A sample ballot is a document that includes the candidates and measures an eligible voter will be able to vote on in the upcoming election. It’s a way to help prepare voters to cast a ballot. Eligible voters can use the sample ballot to do research and use it as a cheat sheet as they fill out their actual ballot.
In some areas, local election offices mail sample ballots to voters. Alternatively, voters may be able to access a sample ballot online at the election office’s website.
You can find your sample ballot using Rock the Vote’s Ballot Look-up and Endorsement Tool and/or by contacting your local election official.
How do I decide who/what to vote for?
Once you know who/what will be on your ballot, you can research candidates and ballot measures to identify who best aligns with your values. Check out resources like Rock the Vote’s Ballot Look-up and Endorsement Tool and Vote411 to learn about Research Your Ballot.
A great place to start your research is to look at endorsements:
- Endorsements of local and state newspaper editorial boards: Editorial boards often include commentary explaining and supporting their endorsements, which can provide a good starting point for additional research.
- Endorsements of organizations that align with your values: Endorsements by organizations that align with your values can provide you with assurance of how the candidates fall on some of the issues that are important to you.
- Endorsements of organizations that are against your values: Endorsements by organizations that are in conflict with and go against your values can provide insight into which candidates and ballot measures you might want to avoid.
Endorsements may not solve exactly who to vote for in every instance, but they can often help narrow your research. Additional ideas for research:
- Look at candidate/ballot measure websites and social media feeds
- If the candidate is an incumbent, look at how they’ve vote or issued judgements, if they are running to be a judge
- Attend or watch a candidate debate or town hall
- Talk with your politically minded friends to ask what they know about the candidates or issues
Keep in mind that no candidate is perfect; vote for who most aligns with your values and then hold them accountable.
That is a lot to research, isn’t there an easier way?
Resources like Rock the Vote’s Ballot Look-up and Endorsement Tool and Vote411 try to make it easy to learn about your ballot. We also encourage you to divide the research among friends and share your findings. You can even host a ballot party.
What is a ballot party?
A ballot party is when friends/family come together to research and complete their sample or mail-in ballots. This not only ensures everyone takes the time to cast an informed ballot, but it also makes the process of researching faster and more fun. Remember, your ballots may not look the same if you live in different places, even if you live down the street.
What are ballot measures/initiatives, referendums, or constitutional amendments?
Ballot measures, sometimes called referendums, propositions, or constitutional amendments are specific to your state or local government. They allow voters the ability to directly vote on a law, issue, budget item, or question. It’s a form of direct democracy in which voters make policy decisions rather than an elected official.
Ballot measures, veto referendums, and propositions typically impact state law, while constitutional amendments change state constitutions. Your local government may even place local measures on the ballot for implementing taxes and raising funds for a specific initiative.
Ballot measures can be written in a way to trick voters or use complicated legal jargon so be sure to research what local newspapers and organizations are saying about them to make sure you understand the measure and are voting in a way that aligns with your values. To learn more about ballot measures, visit Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.
Do I need to vote the entire ballot or for every race?
Legally, you can leave blanks, but we beg you not to leave any blank unless you have absolutely no idea.
Your vote matters for every race, but it can make an especially big impact in your local community. Fewer people vote for local races
I don’t think I’m qualified or know enough about the issues or candidates to vote?
There are a lot of resources and organizations that want to empower you with information to cast an informed ballot. It’s not unusual for someone new to politics to feel overwhelmed and insecure about their understanding. In many cases it’s designed to make it feel that way so you don’t engage or vote. Don’t let insecurity or doubt get in your way. Ask questions, do research and vote in the way that you believe best aligns with your values. Each time you engage, you’ll learn more.
What is straight ticket voting?
Some states have straight ticket voting, which is a quick and easy way for voters to vote for all of a certain party's candidates at once. As opposed to having to check a box in each race, voters can check a single box that will dictate their choices up and down the ballot.
The Power of One Vote: Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I vote?
Midterm election years decide many political offices and ballot measures that have important implications for the future of the country, your state, and your community. Yet, young voters and voters from underrepresented communities - Black, Latino, Asian American Pacific Islanders, Indigenous, people with disabilities, and people from low-income backgrounds - are more likely to sit out in midterm elections.
This results in a small, non-representative group making outsized decisions on issues like the economy, access to abortion, gun violence, climate change, education, housing and the criminal justice system.
When an eligible voter decides to forego voting, they are letting decisions that will affect them and their community be made without them. Once in office, elected officials are most responsive to those who regularly vote as they are most likely to decide whether the official stays in office the next election.
Consider this: if your vote wasn’t powerful there wouldn’t be people trying to take it away.
Does a single vote really matter?
Elections are decided by those who show up. Each individual vote adds up to decide the results of an election. It’s strength in numbers and every vote matters.
In more recent years, elections have become more competitive meaning that elections are close and decided by fewer votes. Looking at votes per precinct, it's not uncommon to see that just a few votes in either direction at each precinct could change an election.
In local elections, this is most notable, where candidates may win powerful offices by only a few votes. So YES – every single vote counts.
Is it true that a single vote is more statistically significant in local elections?
Yes. As there is typically lower voter turnout for local elections, a single vote is more statistically significant. Besides having a lot of influence over your and your community’s daily life, local elected officials gain power and often run for bigger offices to represent more people. Power is built locally.
Are elections really that close?
Yes, in many places elections are more competitive if voters show up. Even in the past few election cycles, there were many elections decided by just a handful of votes. Here are a few examples over the last few years:
- 2020: Iowa House Congressional District 2 was decided by SIX votes
- 2018: Alaska State House District 1 was decided by ONE vote
- 2018: Kentucky State House District 13 was decided by ONE vote
- 2018: New Hampshire State House District 3 was decided by TWO votes
- 2018: Idaho State Senate District 13 was decided by ELEVEN votes
- 2018: Minnesota State House District 5A was decided by ELEVEN votes
- 2016: Vermont State Senate Washington Co. District was decided by ONE vote
- 2016: New Mexico State House District 29 was decided by TWO votes
There are hundreds, possibly thousands of elections decided by dozens of votes every major election cycle. Every vote matters.