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Election Experts Share Tips On How To Avoid Voting Issues At The Polls


This election has some voters worrying what's going to happen at the polls. Donald Trump has warned, without evidence, that the election could be stolen. The FBI has warned state election offices to be on guard for hacking attempts. Well, election experts say there are some things you can do to help ensure things go smoothly, and NPR's Pam Fessler is here to tell us about them.

Hi, Pam.


SHAPIRO: Still about a month from the election, but it sounds like this is not a bad time to start thinking about this. Where do you begin?

FESSLER: Well, first of all, we should note that, if history's any guide, most voters are going to have absolutely no problems at the polls. But there are some things you can do. The first thing is to make sure that you actually are registered to vote. And that you...

SHAPIRO: You've pulled up a website here.

FESSLER: Exactly. So here, I'm registered in Maryland. So you can go to the site. It's the Election Assistance Commission site, And it has links to all of the state election websites. And I'm going to...

SHAPIRO: You're clicking on Maryland, where you live.

FESSLER: Exactly. And I'm going to check on that site to see if I am registered and that all the information is correct. And I pick up this one page, and I put in - all I have to do is put in my name...


FESSLER: ...And my date of birth, which we will not say on the air.


FESSLER: ...And then my ZIP code. Just click search, and boom. There it is.

SHAPIRO: There's your registration. It tells you where to vote. Does it even tell you what you get to vote on, state and local initiatives?

FESSLER: Exactly. You can look - I can download a sample ballot. This is a really important thing for people to do ahead of time because it will shorten lines at the polls if everybody knows in advance what they're going to do when they get there. Another thing you can do to shorten lines is if you don't want to vote on Election Day, you can vote early or by mail in a lot of states.

SHAPIRO: OK. So that's how you vote. What if people are still worried about the integrity of the voting process?

FESSLER: Well, there are a lot of things, actually, that you can do to make yourself feel a little bit more comfortable in advance. One thing I found out recently is that state and election officials - they test all of the equipment ahead of time. And you can go watch them do that.

And you can - it's usually a week or so before the election. They run through everything. You could ask questions. So you can check with your local election official and find out exactly how you can go about doing this.

SHAPIRO: Donald Trump, at his rallies, has encouraged people to be poll-watchers - go keep an eye on things. There are specific rules for who can do that and how, right?

FESSLER: Exactly. There's a whole procedure for who can and can't be a poll-watcher. Usually, you have to sign up with the campaign or with a political party. You have to be trained. You have to be certified. And there are rules. You can go into a polling place. You might be able to challenge a voter's registration or report any irregularities. But you cannot interfere with the voter.

SHAPIRO: I suppose the most important thing is to end where we began - that for most people, most of the time, voting tends to go smoothly without any problems.

FESSLER: That's right. And if you're really worried, you also can volunteer to be a poll worker on Election Day and really see the process from the inside.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Pam Fessler, thanks a lot.

FESSLER: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.
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