You can vote, even if you’re not registered, but don’t show up too late

It’s not too late to vote today, even if you’re not registered or moved and forgot to register at your new address, but you might have to show up earlier than other voters in order to actually cast a ballot.

Here’s what you need to know about casting your ballot Tuesday.

1. Am I registered or not?

You might be registered after all. To find out, use the Secretary of the State’s voter registration lookup tool. (Be sure to format your birth date properly).

If you are registered, this lookup tool will even tell you where to go to cast your ballot.

2. OK, I’m not registered. Where do I go to register?

Don’t worry about it. Each town has designated locations for election day registration. These are not necessarily the same as the normal polling locations where you would go if you were registered prior to election date. Here’s the 2018 list of locations in each town. You register and cast your ballot in the same place.

3. How late can I show up to register and vote?

Don’t show up at 7:59 p.m. and expect to register and cast a ballot.

If you’re registered to vote, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and if you’re in line before polls close, you must be allowed to vote.

However, that same guarantee doesn’t hold true if you’re in line to register at 8 p.m., according to the Secretary of State’s office. If you’re not registered to vote by 8 p.m., you can’t cast a ballot. State election officials say you should plan to show up “early in the day.”

“You have to register to vote and be in the system by 8 o’clock that evening,” said Sue Larson, president of the Registrar of Voters Association of Connecticut in a press conference with the Secretary of the State Denise Merrill last week. “So if you show up at five-of-eight, chances are you will not be able to fill out the registration card or get the information into the online system for you to register to vote for that day.”

Larson said that inactive voters, those who are registered but haven’t voted for a while, can have their status re-activated at their normal polling place before voting.

4. What documents do I need?

If you’re not registered, you’ll need to bring proof of your identity, like a driver’s license, social security card or passport. Students can bring a current photo ID from college. If your proof of identity doesn’t include where you live, you’ll need to bring something like a recent utility bill or a college registration or fee statement, a paycheck, property tax bill or naturalization documents.

For more information on what’s accepted, or other voter information, go to myvote.ct.gov.

5. What will the ballot look like?

Filling out the bubbles on the ballot in person feels a little like taking a proctored exam, but don’t get test anxiety. Unlike the SAT, you can take a look at the ballot ahead of time. The Secretary of the State’s office publishes sample ballots for each voting district here.

Here’s an example from Bridgewater:

A sample ballot from the November 2018 election for the town of Bridgewater. Your ballot might be two-sided, so check the back.

A sample ballot from the November 2018 election for the town of Bridgewater. Your ballot might be two-sided, so check the back.

The ballot looks a little different in every voting district. They all have the same candidates for statewide office, including governor and U.S. Senate, but other races vary based on what districts you’re in.

In addition to the candidates running for office, there are two ballot questions you won’t want to try to decipher while at the polls. You can read up on those here.

6. What districts am I in?

There are several offices that vary based on location.

There are five U.S. House of Representatives districts in Connecticut. You can find out which one you’re in here.

There are 38 State Senate districts and 151 State House districts. The boundaries of each district don’t line up with town boundaries, so you have to put in your address to find your districts here.

There are also races for probate judge around the state. You can find your probate court district here.

7. What are my rights?

The Secretary of the State’s office publishes a voters “bill of rights” here, which includes rights such as casting a ballot in privacy, free of coercion. The bill of rights is available in Spanish, along with more information on voter rights, here.

8. Does my employer have to give me time off to vote?

No. But yours may opt to do so anyway.

Federal law does not require that employers allow their workers time off to vote. But a majority of states have at least some level of protection for employees who want to leave work to engage in their civic duty. Connecticut is among the minority of states that do not offer such protections.

(Despite not having this employee voter protection, Connecticut has become a less burdensome state to vote in, according to a recent paper in the Election Law Journal that considered 33 election-related laws.)

9. How do I report problems at the polls?

You can call a hotline of election officials and a lawyers at 1-866-SEEC-INFO (1-866-733-2463) to anonymously report problems on election day. That’s a hotline set up by the Secretary of the State’s office, the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the U.S. State’s Attorney and Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney’s office and the FBI. You can also email elections@ct.gov.

10. Why bother? I’m only one vote

The State Senate is currently tied, with 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans, meaning just one seat could tip the balance in one of the two chambers needed to make state laws. These legislative races can come down to a surprisingly small number of votes. In 2012, a race with a margin of only 43 votes triggered an automatic recount.

One of the seats that Republicans gained in 2016 to tie the State Senate, the 13th district, had flipped back and forth in prior years with fewer than 300 votes separating the winner from the loser.

The race for governor may also be very close, with the two front-running candidates within the margin of error in several recent polls.

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