Elections

Do’s and don’ts at the polling place

File photo

Every election, people have questions about what they can and can’t do when they go to vote. Here are answers to some of your questions going into Tuesday’s Election Day.

Can I watch the voting?

The short answer is no.

The only people allowed to watch voting are registered observers, who can be appointed by the political parties or a candidate who’s on the ballot. Generally, the observers sit behind the poll workers where voters check in just before they vote. That’s why you have to state your name out loud when you vote, even though they get all your information off your ID. The main reason campaigns send observers is so they know who has voted and can skip their names when making late-day get-out-the-vote calls.

If you’re not an official observer, you have to vote and leave.

I know electioneering is prohibited, but what’s considered electioneering?

Practically anything that shows support for a candidate or issue on the ballot. That includes buttons, caps, T-shirts or other campaign apparel or paraphernalia. And that’s enforced even if it doesn’t mention a candidate by name, so don’t show up in your “I’m With Her” T-shirt or your “Make America Great Again” hat.

You can, however, wear your camo and hunting vest, even though there is a constitutional amendment about hunting on the ballot, because it doesn’t indicate direct support for the proposition.

While you’re in line to vote, you can’t talk about who you plan to vote for anywhere that others might overhear.

One thing to know: The radius where electioneering is prohibited is 250 feet from the door of the polling place. At some polling places, that door is more than 250 feet from the driveway entrance to the parking lot, so people can legally wave signs there as you drive in.

Should I vote on the electronic machines or on paper?

It’s up to you. Some people don’t trust the machines, so they vote on paper. For others, it’s a matter of convenience. If there’s a line for the machines, you’ll almost always get out faster if you fill out a paper ballot. The Sedgwick County election commissioner’s office recommends asking for paper if there’s a line, in order to keep things moving.

How do I know whether my vote has been recorded?

On a machine in Sedgwick County, you should be able to track your vote on the paper printer tape you can see through a window to the side of the voting screen. When you hit the final confirmation, you’ll see the tape roll up to blank paper.

If you opt for paper, you’ll feed it into the counting machine yourself. There’s a counter that shows the total number of votes cast. If it goes up one when you feed in your ballot, you’ll know it has been recorded.

If you vote provisionally, the election office can tell you after the canvassing of ballots whether yours got counted.

What is a provisional ballot? Why would I use one?

Election officials give voters a provisional ballot if there’s some question about their registration status, such as an address mismatch or a voter’s name not appearing in the polling book.

There’s already been one allegation that a voter was improperly turned away from a polling place in Sedgwick County, so if there’s any question about your registration or eligibility to vote, ask for a provisional ballot. If they won’t give you one at the polling place, demand that they call the election commissioner for a ruling.

I got a mail-in ballot and my dog ate it. What are my options?

You have a right to vote on a provisional ballot at your polling place on Tuesday, even if you received a mail-in ballot and didn’t send it in for any reason. In fact, if you can’t remember whether you sent it in, you can still vote provisionally.

If you’ve filled out your mail-in ballot and just want to turn it in on Tuesday, you cannot do that at any regular polling place. You must take it downtown by 7 p.m. to the Sedgwick County Election Office at the Historic Courthouse, 510 N. Main, Suite 101, in Wichita.

Why are kids coloring at my polling place?

A local campaign called “Vote Like a Mother” is offering activities and coloring pages to children at several Wichita polling sites on Tuesday.

The sites: Westwood Presbyterian Church, West Side Church of God, West Evangelical Free Church, St. Andrews Lutheran Church, Riverwalk Church of Christ, Pilgrim Congregational Church, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, East Evangelical Free Church, Faith Christian Church, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

Where’s my driver’s license?

Now that a license or other government ID is required to vote, some people have left theirs at the polls. If yours turns up missing and you voted, call the election commissioner’s office to see whether they have it. They are not just going to mail it back to you, because people move without changing their license, and they don’t want it to get lost in the mail.

Can I take a picture of my ballot?

That’s a tricky one. The state says it’s legal, but Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman has a local rule against it. Lehman said her concern is that unregulated photography around the voting machines could compromise the privacy of other voters.

Polling places will have “selfie sticks” for voters to take “I voted” photos of themselves in the lobby of polling places.

In the past year and a half, American voters have been presented with historic surprises and scandals from their presidential nominees. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's promises of "making America great again" and being "stronger together" have

Voters at a few advance polling stations in Wichita tell us who they voted for in the presidential race -- and why. (Video by Oliver Morrison / The Wichita Eagle)

Contributing: Gabriela Dunn of The Eagle

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