Observe the registration deadlines -- which are already passed. If you live in Missouri and did not register to vote before 5:00 pm on Wednesday, October 11th of this year, then you did not register in time for this election. Stay home. Missouri is not one of the states that permits same-day registration. Any attempt by you to vote in this election, if you did not register by the deadline, is technically voter fraud. Don't do it. At best you're tying up the lines, which probably will be long this year. At worst, you'll be reported for voter fraud.
If you haven't yet, verify your registration. If you haven't yet received a notice from your city/county Board of Elections telling you where your polling place for this election is, then you should probably assume the worst. Local ACORN has been caught changing people's addresses, forwarding "replacement" voter registration cards to empty buildings where only their people would know to pick them up. If you haven't got your polling place notification yet, you might be one of them. Or there could be some perfectly innocent explanation, but don't take the chance. First thing Monday morning, call your Board of Elections and ask them to verify the address on your registration.
It is harder to steal your vote if you vote early. Polls open at 6:00 am. (Or at least they're supposed to. Minor delays are annoyingly common, and may be worse this year.) Several forms of voter fraud can easily be headed off by being the first person to claim to be you at your designated polling place. Also, any runaround you get from the local election supervisors or from Republican voter intimidation specialists election challengers may take hours to untangle, so make sure you allow time to do so before 7:00 pm.
If you can't vote any earlier than right at 7:00 pm, vote anyway. The law requires them to keep the polling place open until the last person who got in line before 7:00 pm has voted. If they try to close the doors on you, report this as election fraud. (Instructions below.)
If possible, use the optical scan paper ballot. It is possible for them to cheat on either ballot technology. But with the optical scan ballots, the evidence is harder to conceal. If you screw up your optical scan ballot, don't try to fix it yourself. Go back to the election judges and ask for a fresh ballot. You may do this as often as you need to.
If the lines for optical scan ballots are too long and you absolutely must use the touch screen voting machine, note that there is a "cash register tape" style printer to the left of your screen. Before you hit the final button to cast your votes, check that paper tape at least as carefully as you would check a credit card statement.
Gods help you if you planned to vote "straight ticket." For no explicable reason, Baby Blunt and his tame legislature outlawed the straight-ticket option on Missouri ballots. (Good explanation of the situation: Jo Mannies, "Elimination of straight ticket voting may stretch lines at polling places," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/2/06.) So if you plan on voting for, say, all of the Democratic candidates on the ballot, you really will have to go to every page of the ballot, every race, search for the Democratic candidate, and pick each one by hand. Since the roughly 1/3rd of Missourians (she says representing both parties more or less equally) who cast straight-ticket ballots will now take at least five or six times as long to vote, during peak times the lines will be ridiculous.
You will only need your usual voter identification, no matter who tells you otherwise. Yes, you may use your driver's license. And obviously you may use your voter registration card. But really, all you have to do to be eligible to vote (if you're at the right polling place and registered) is prove that you live at the address you're registered at. If you can't find your driver's license or your voter registration card, see the Missouri Secretary of State's web page for a list of acceptable forms of ID. Note that if you do not live at the address that you're registered at, it gets complicated, depending on how far you moved and whether you moved before or after last October 11th; see the Secretary of State's web page again, this time looking at question 4 on the FAQ.
If you can avoid casting a provisional ballot, do so. The Help Americans Vote Act requires them to let you cast a provisional ballot if you think you're registered and at the right place. And it requires them to help you to find the right place. But if they tell you that you really aren't registered or that you really are at the wrong place and you think otherwise, casting a provisional ballot will almost certainly be a waste of your time. The odds are around 19 to 1 that they'll just throw it out, because the people verifying provisional ballots are using the same database that the people at the local polls are using. If at all possible, fix the actual issue instead.
If anything goes wrong then do not make a fuss inside the polling place. You'll just get arrested. Instead, step outside the no-electioneering line outside, pick up your cellphone, and call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, 866-687-8683. Have it on the speed dial on your cell phone before you leave. Report the exact address of your polling place, the time of what you saw, and exactly what you saw.
There are other numbers you can call. Here in the St. Louis metro area, the local US attorney has set up a vote fraud hotline at 314-539-7733. And they'll also recommend that you call the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division's voting department at 800-253-3931. If you have time to do so after you call 866-OUR-VOTE, go ahead and call both of those numbers, just to get your complaint on the record. But don't expect them to do much about your complaint; they work for President Bush. It's probably also not a bad idea to call your local political party club, whose number you can find in the phone book; they may be able to do something about it.
In particular, call 866-OUR-VOTE if you see any of the following:
Police roadblocks or any other attempt to arrest or intimidate people on their way to the polls.
Anybody blocking entrances to the polls or engaging in any political campaigning inside the "no electioneering past this point" line.
Any disabled or non-English-speaking voters denied any help that they need in order to cast their votes.
Excessively long lines, as in lines reaching out the door, let alone down the block.
Shortage of ballots.
Missing or out of order voting machines.
Voting officials claiming that you've already voted when you haven't.
Voting officials refusing to help you or anyone else find their correct voting place.
Election challengers speaking directly to voters instead of to the election judges.
Anybody denied a fresh ballot to replace a spoiled ballot.
Voting machines that register the wrong candidate when you touch the screen. Report this even if they fix it for you, because it'll be important to determine if there is, as accused, a pattern to the mistakes.
Polls not open at 6:00 am. Even if they have a plausible excuse, document it by calling. Escalate the call if they're not open by 6:30, because that's inexcusable.
Any attempt to close the polls before closing time, as described above.
Do not worry too much about false alarms. Each report will be checked before any action is taken. Err on the side of over-reporting. We need this crap cleared up, and we need it now, and that means we need you to report any problems you see.
Participate in any exit polling if you have a chance, if you possibly can. Exit polls that diverge too widely from the reported numbers are one of the best ways we have to find precincts that may be engaged in fraud. So much so, frankly, that even the Bush administration uses that yardstick when judging election results in other countries.
Neil Aline (Chez Music) - Recorded Live from APT (May 2006)