Shrouded in bureaucracy, voting can seem more confusing than it really is.To help ease your mind as Nov. 8 approaches, here’s how your vote will make it from you to the state on Election Day.
For information on the candidates, political and education news and other coverage to help you decide who to vote for, visit the IDS’s midterm elections guide.
What will happen when I go to vote?
When you go to vote, poll workers will scan your ID to register that you’re there. They’ll have you check and sign off to confirm your information, such as name and address. Then, you’ll find out your voting precinct. If you’re curious what precinct you’re in before going to vote, a map is available on the Monroe County Voter Registration Office website.
From that information, poll workers will print a label with a code and put the label on an envelope. The code, based on your information, will print a personalized ballot. From there, you will be given instructions on how to fill out the ballot, and a Democrat and Republican poll worker will both initial the blank ballot.
You’ll go to the voting booth, fill out the ballot, sign off on it and fold it in half. If you voted more than seven days before the election, the ballot is deposited into a ballot box. If you voted on or within seven days of Nov. 8, Election Day, legislation allows the ballot to be scanned immediately. You’ll get a sticker, and you’re free to go.
What will the ballot look like?
The ballot will be a set of pages printed front and back in two columns. The first page will be mostly instructions on voting. Depending on your district, there may also be a question asking you to vote on a budget referendum which would raise property taxes to help fund the Monroe County Community School Corporation. An IDS explanation of the referendum can be found online.
The ballot will have an option to vote “straight party,” meaning that by marking it, you’ll automatically vote for the candidate of the party you specify in every race. If you choose that option, you’ll still have to vote on the township board and school board candidates, questions about judicial retention and the referendum, if it’s on your ballot.
What do I need when I go to vote?
You’ll need a form of ID with a photo and an expiration date. This can be anything issued by the state, such as a driver’s license or official state ID. If you’re an IU student, you can use your student ID since IU is a state school.
What happens if I show up and there’s an issue with my registration?
If you've registered to vote, you should be able to vote. However, mistakes happen. If you come in to vote without a valid ID, if workers say you’re not registered when you believe you should be, or if you show up at the wrong poll site, you may fill out a provisional ballot.
A provisional ballot allows you to cast your vote if you believe you should be eligible to vote, even if your voter eligibility has been challenged officially. It's meant to account for voters who can’t vote at that time and administrative error, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Generally, the same rules as normal voting apply, but there are a few differences. The ballot must be marked privately, unless you’re entitled to and request assistance. You’ll enclose the ballot in an envelope specifically for provisional ballot secrecy and return it, sealed. You’ll also have to provide a written, signed affirmation stating you’re a registered voter who is eligible to vote in that election.
Whether your provisional ballot is valid will be determined by your voter qualifications on the outside of the envelope. Someone from each major political party will observe the envelope during the verification process, and the ballots will remain unopened until they’re determined to be eligible or not.
If the issue was with an incorrect ID, provisional voters can bring a valid form of ID to Election Central, located at 401 W. Seventh St., by noon on Nov. 18, 10 days after the election. If a voter believes they were registered but that registration doesn’t show up when they go to vote, they can fill out a provisional ballot and bring proof of registration to Election Central by noon on Nov. 18.
Voters who went to the wrong poll site can fill out a provisional ballot, but it will not be counted at that site. To find your Election Day poll site, go to the Indiana Voter Portal.
The ballot’s eligibility is determined by the county election board. To verify the ballot, the board will look at the written affirmation and the provisional voter’s registration status and eligibility. Provisional voters can contact the county election board to find out whether their ballot was counted and, if not, why.
Provisional ballot votes are not added to the total until 10 days after the election.
How is my vote counted?
Ballots aren’t counted until Election Day and are all counted in Monroe County. The ballots are scanned and processed by voting machines. They’re counted by a computer, only used for election purposes, once the polls close at 6 p.m. on Election Day.
Preliminary final numbers are posted online and submitted to the state on Nov. 8 after the polls close. That number does not reflect provisional ballot vote numbers, which aren’t counted until up to 10 days after the election and which are added then.
What happens if I make a mistake on my ballot?
The Monroe County Election Board, a branch of the Monroe County Justice Department, oversees all Monroe County elections and will be at Election Central throughout Election Day. The board is made up of Republican member Donovan Garletts, Democratic chair Shruti Rana and secretary and Monroe County Clerk Nicole Browne. Browne is running unopposed for reelection.
When a ballot isn’t marked clearly, is written on, or is otherwise unable to be scanned by voting machines, the Election Board looks at the unclear race and votes based on what they decide the original voter intended. If they can’t make a clear decision, the vote for that particular office on that ballot won’t count, but all other votes on the ballot will still be scanned and counted.
While this doesn’t happen often, there are occurrences where the vote is unclear. To avoid this, clearly mark only one candidate in a race and don’t mark anywhere else on the ballot. If you need a new ballot, you can ask a poll worker. They’ll provide you with a blank one and void the old one.
How do I know my vote is secure?
The ballots are never left alone with one person and are initialed by two poll workers of different parties as a check. The ballots are separated from their envelopes when counted, so voters can’t be matched to their ballots.
On Election Day, someone from Hart InterCivic, the vendor in charge of Monroe County voting equipment, will be on site to fix any technical issues or troubleshoot anything strange.
Early voting is now open in Monroe County and will remain open until noon on Nov. 7.