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Editorial: Be prepared to cast your ballot

It's finally here. Carroll County residents and Marylanders as have their opportunity today to vote for the Republican and Democratic nominees for president, among other offices in today's primary election.

Carroll voters, in addition to president, may also cast ballots for party nominees for Maryland's next U.S. senator and a representative in Congress for either District 1 or District 8, depending on which part of the county you live. Voters will also choose delegates to their respective political party's national convention, and locally, will choose candidates to advance to November's ballot in the nonpartisan Board of Education race.

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Hopefully, by now, you know the candidates for whom you plan to vote. If not, we suggest visiting the nonpartisan website www.VoteSmart.org, which collects information on candidates for public office, to learn more about those running before you vote. VoteSmart includes a nifty tool on its website called VoteEasy, which directs you toward candidates whose viewpoints align with your own based on a series of questions you can answer.

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, although the expert tip from Carroll County Board of Elections Director Katherine Berry is to vote, if you can, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to avoid long lines. As long as you are in line by 8 p.m., you will be allowed to vote, although we suggest getting there earlier if you can.

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Expect the process to be a little slower than in recent years, as Maryland has reverted to a paper ballot this year, rather than the touch screen voting system the state has used most recently. It may cause voters unfamiliar with the new process to take a little longer than in year's past, so build in some extra time when you go to the polls.

Voters will get a preprinted paper ballot that they will mark by hand at the voting booth by filling in bubbles next to their chosen candidates name, similar to a standardized test. Voters will then review their marked paper ballot before inserting them into a tabulation device to be scanned.

Another expert tip from Berry is to bring along a marked specimen or sample ballot — you likely received one in the mail earlier this month and, if not, you can download one from the Board of Elections website — to help speed along the process by referencing it when you vote.

Finally, make sure you go to the right polling place. You should be able to find your polling place on your voter card, but if you've recently moved or aren't sure, you can always visit the Maryland State Board of Elections website (elections.state.md.us) to find your polling place.

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