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Election Day Answer Desk: Your voting questions

Tuesday - 11/6/2012, 7:04pm  ET

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Voters line up before dawn at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon in Fairfax County, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Fairfax County is a Washington suburb and is the biggest battleground in Virginia, which is a key swing state in Tuesday's presidential and senator election. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON - The WTOP Election Day Answer Desk is taking questions related to voting and Election Day. Here are some questions we've received from calls, Facebook and Twitter.

Question: When exactly does voting close? How late can I vote?

The polls close at 8 p.m. in Maryland and D.C. and at 7 p.m. in Virginia. However, all those who are in line when the polls close will be allowed to vote, which could mean voting continues for several hours in some precincts.

Question: Why at an Alexandria polling center are they telling certain voters they have an "Inactive Voter Status"? What does that mean and how can they qualify that statement with imperial evidence?

A: Jeremy Lasich, Fairfax County Spokesmanm, sends this response: "No one should be turned away for being an inactive voter. Do you have a poll location so we can follow up with the chief? What may have happened is that the Office of Elections received a returned envelope that indicated the resident moved, but the move has not been confirmed by voter. They can fill out an affirmation of eligibility and vote a regular ballot. They may have been redirected -- not turned away -- to vote at the poll where they are registered."

Q: I asked for an absentee ballot but didn't mail form back. Can I go to my polling place with my paperwork and still vote?

A: Lasich: "If they bring the ballot with them, then they can void it and vote on a machine. If they have lost it or don't bring with them, then they can vote provisionally. If the absentee ballot is filled out and want to turn in - they must come to the Government Center before 7 p.m.

Q: Why are there long lines at some precincts and not at others?

A: There are a lot of variables at play on election day.

Some precincts are more energized than others. Some are "double prencincts" -- meaning they contain parts of two congressional districts, necessitating two sets of ballots. In some districts, there are more disabled voters who need extra assistance, and more voters with long commutes, meaning longer lines at the very beginning and end of voting.

And there are always factors that you can't prepare for -- minor computer glitches that affect voting machines in one precinct and not another, or election poll volunteers that don't show up

Q: Are Poll Watchers in Virginia allowed to record name of people who come in to vote?

A: Poll watchers are allowed to record names of voters. Below is information from Arlington County's guidelines for candidates and political parties regarding poll watchers, outside poll workers and placement of political signs:

"Poll watchers are authorized representatives of a party or candidate allowed inside the polling place on Election Day. Typically, poll watchers are provided with a list of party or candidate supporters, and they listen for names of voters as they appear to vote. By marking known supporters off their lists, they can assist party or campaign officials in estimating how their candidates are doing in particular precincts."

The guide also states that poll watchers must be able to hear voters' names as the voters identify themselves, and they may ask election officers to repeat the names of voters.

Q: Do you have to cast your ballot by 7 p.m. or be in line by 7 p.m.?

A: As long as voters are in line before 7 p.m., they will be allowed to vote. Polls close at 7 p.m. in Virginia. Polls close at 8 p.m. in Maryland and D.C.

Q: I saw a voter turned away at a poll because they didn't have the correct form of ID. Please make sure your listeners know what to bring.

A: Our story, "What you need to know to vote in Va., Md. and D.C." lists all the forms of identification voters can use in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.

Q: I see references from Maryland state websites that say a voter can wear a campaign button or T-shirt in the polling place, but I can't find the actual law. Do you have a reference to the law that says it's ok for a voter to do that?

A: The Maryland State Board of elections says it is not electioneering for a voter to wear campaign buttons, T-shirts or stickers into a polling place, but you must leave the polling place immediately after voting.

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