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October 19, 2004

How-To Vote and What To Expect on November 2nd

Alan Imhoff

Two weeks from today many of us will take about a half hour out of our busy schedules to exercise one of the fundamental rights of living in a democracy, we will vote for the next President of the United States.

This is to all of you, especially those of you who just registered in the last few weeks, who will be using the new touch screen voting system for the first time.

If you are one of these voters who would like to try out the new system, I encourage you to head to the basement office of the Board of Elections in Winchester Hall on East Church Street and see first hand how easy the system is to use.

The county is divided up into districts and each district is further divided into precincts.

If you have received your voter registration card your district/precinct information is in the upper left corner on the front portion. In the middle of right front portion is your Polling Place. This is where you need to go in order to cast your ballot.

You should take your card and a form of identification to the polling place. If you do not have your card or cannot find it, don't worry you can still vote. Go to the Frederick County website, search for the Board of Elections home page and follow the directions to find your polling place by entering your street address.

Upon entering your polling place, a set of chief judges will be there to assist you in going to the appropriate table to register and receive your Voter Access Card.

Next step is to go to the table showing the first letter of your last name, usually broken down by "A to G", "H to L", etc. At this table there will be another set of judges that will ask you to declare you name. They will look you up in the registry. If the table judges are not sure, they may ask you to produce a form of identification.

You will be given your pre-printed Voter Registration Card, asked to verify the information and then sign it. Once done, you take the Voter Registration Card to a third set of judges who will take your card and issue you a credit card sized Voter Access Card.

This Voter Access Card allows you to pull up a ballot on the touch screen. Upon getting to the voting unit you will need to insert the Voter Access Card into the slot, a ballot will come up on the screen and you are ready to vote.

By following the on-screen instructions you cast your ballot. There generally is no time limit to voting, however if you encounter problems the unit judges are there to assist you.

Reading all this takes longer than the actual process as most voting can be accomplished in less than 5 minutes.

While every effort has been made to add extra voting machines for this election and approximately 900 judges are in place to assist, there will be certain times of the day where the lines will be long as voters sign-in with the table judges. All we judges ask is that you be patient if you encounter this situation.

Each polling place has its own busy times, but based on experience the best times to vote are first thing in the morning or between 2 P.M. and 4 P.M. Perhaps the busiest hour will be that last hour from 7 P.M. to 8 P.M.

So, my suggestion is that if you can vote before 4 P.M., it may save you some frustration either in finding parking or waiting to register as an expected very high turnout gives the importance of voting early added meaning.

Again to those of you voting here in Frederick County for the first time, the judges that man the polls are your neighbors. Although we receive some pay for the day, most of us do it because we enjoy serving the community in this important right as a citizen of the United States.

As volunteers, we put in at least a 16-hour day beginning at 6 A.M. We are not allowed by law to leave the polling place, so by that busiest hour from 7 P.M. to 8 P.M., we are tired. If the lines are long, be patient, as everyone in line or in the polling place by 8 P.M. is still allowed to cast a ballot.

I hope you enjoy this voting experience, as we judges will do our best to see that your vote is cast in a timely and secure manner.

See you Tuesday November 2nd, hopefully before 4 P.M.

Editor's Note: Mr. Imhoff has been a Democratic Chief Judge for District 2, Precinct 5 in Frederick City for the past four presidential elections.



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