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How you can be proactive with the new voting system

Most voters, including those in counties using the AutoMark BMD, will be given a pre-printed ballot torn from a bound book after they sign the poll book. The stub for each ballot is numbered and is retained by the inspectors so that every ballot is accounted for. This number is not on your ballot, so the secrecy of your vote is protected.

Insist on being given a "privacy folder" to conceal your ballot until you submit it to the scanner.

Select a location in the polling place that gives you as much privacy as possible while marking the ballot. Relax about this; it is highly unlikely that someone would read your ballot from a distance. Ask for a chair if you want to sit down.

You have a right to insert your own marked ballot into the scanner, but may ask the inspector to do this, keeping the ballot covered except for the top edge. The scanner will read your ballot no matter what side is up. Wait a moment to see the small screen tell you that your ballot has been counted. If you have chosen more candidates in a particular race than is allowed ("overvoted"), the screen will tell you and you have the option of asking for a new ballot so that your vote in that contest is counted.

An optional review: If you want to double-check that the scanner is correctly reading your choices, you must tell the inspector BEFORE submitting the ballot to the scanner. The inspector will set up your review and then step back to allow you privacy.

Do not expect a paper receipt showing how your vote was counted; good election practice forbids this so that others cannot ask you to prove that you voted as they told you.

There are additional pre- and post-election ways in which citizens can be pro-active. For example, at the closing of the polls they can read the "results tape," a print-out from the scanner that is to be posted at the poll site. They also can inquire about the audits of the scanners that the Boards of Elections will be doing. All of these "pro-activities" will help to develop confidence in the many checks and balances built into this new system.

Above all, be patient with the election inspectors. The equipment has been used only a few times. While the system is quite simple for the voter, most inspectors still need to use printed guides when opening and closing the polls or setting up the BMD. You can ease the long Election Day for the workers by doing your own part to learn about the voting process.

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