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Voter protection checklist

Maybe you've heard the rumor that you can't wear a button with the name of a candidate when you vote. Or you can't vote at all if you have an outstanding traffic ticket or defaulted on a mortgage payment. Or your registration could be voided if you entered a Social Security number on the form when you first registered.

All these claims are false.

As a nonpartisan watchdog group, Democracy North Carolina receives reports of all sorts of mischief and misinformation surrounding elections. We encourage you to learn about the candidates' positions on issues before you vote, but it's also important to know your basic voting rights so you won't be intimidated or discouraged by the next story that seems a little scary.

Here's a list of 20 tips for North Carolina voters that we've verified with the State Board of Elections:

You may wear a button, hat, or shirt with a candidate's name as you quietly vote, but you may not actively draw attention to your choices.

You may take a list of your choices into the polling place to help you remember, but do not show the list to others or leave it behind.

You may vote for any candidate of your choice, regardless of the political party on your registration form.

Voting a “straight-party ticket” does not include the president; you must vote for president and nonpartisan judges separately. If you vote on a paper ballot, look on both sides.

You do not need an excuse to request an absentee ballot. But when you send it back, the form must include the signatures of two witnesses and their addresses.

You do not need to show your registration card when you go to vote.

New voters may need to show a form of ID when they first vote if the driver's license or Social Security number they listed on the registration form did not match government databases. Acceptable forms of ID with your name and current address include a government document (license, bill, letter, etc.), a utility bill (gas, phone, etc.), your check, bank-card statement, or payroll stub.

You may go to any of the Early Voting sites in your county to vote, not just the one nearest to your precinct.

If you missed the regular deadline to register, you can still register and vote on the same day, but only at one of your county's Early Voting centers. A form of ID will be required. Use Same-Day Registration if you've moved or to update or change your registration.

You may not use Same-Day Registration on Election Day. It may only be used during the Early Voting period from October 16 to November 1.

Ballots cast during Early Voting count like those cast on Election Day.

The easiest time to vote, when lines are generally shortest, is in the mid-morning or early afternoon.

It's best to vote in your own precinct on Election Day, but you may vote in any polling place in your county. If you vote outside your precinct, your choices will only count for the items that also appear on your home precinct's ballot. Some items on your home ballot, such as a particular district race, may not appear on another's precinct's ballot.

If your name does not appear on the registration rolls or you have any problem when you vote, you should be offered a provisional ballot; you should be given a toll-free number or Web site to learn if the ballot was counted or the reason it was not.

Members of the military and students can register at the address where they live now, even if their mailing address (or address for tax purposes) is elsewhere.

Felons convicted in North Carolina or another state may register and vote here after serving their full sentence, including probation. No document certifying the restoration of their citizenship rights is needed.

If you have an outstanding warrant, bankruptcy, traffic ticket, or civil fine, you may still vote.

It's a crime to intentionally distribute false information about the voting process.

If you have problems or see suspicious activity, call the State Board of Elections at 1-866-522-4723 or the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

To check your registration, see a sample ballot, find your nearest Early Voting center, get voting information and a guide to state candidates, or learn the truth behind a rumor, go to 2008ElectionConnection.com or call 1-888-687-8683.

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