When it comes to casting your ballot, the old saying “trust but verify” is great advice, because so many things can go wrong. Voters need to know what to do in case one of those things happens to them.

Below are a few of the most common issues voters encounter at the polls. If you have an issue that is not discussed here, ask the presiding election judge for a solution. If they can’t help, have the judge call the county elections office for a ruling.

Do NOT cast your ballot or leave the polling place until your questions are answered and your issues are resolved.

Candidates are missing from your ballot 

It’s possible your ballot was coded for the wrong precinct. Exchange your ballot with the judge for a corrected one and watch to make sure the old ballot is “spoiled.” You can print out a sample ballot from the county elections website and bring it with you as a reminder of who to vote for and as proof of who should be on your ballot for your precinct.

You are told you already voted when you have not

It’s possible someone pulled the wrong label (for someone with similar name, for example) and the “wrong” voter did not catch it when signing his/her name at check in. Find out the date, time, and location where you supposedly voted so you can file a report with your county elections department. Then ask to vote a “provisional ballot” (they have to let you do this) and request that there be an investigation to check for errors or a forged signature. Follow up with the elections department to make sure the error was fixed and your provisional ballot was counted.

Your ballot-marking machine records a mistake

ALWAYS check the “ballot preview” screen before printing your ballot to make sure it shows all the people you intended to vote for, and make corrections if necessary. Recheck the preview after you’ve made any changes.

ALWAYS check the printed paper ballot to make sure it shows the same people you marked on the machine and that the barcodes are filled in completely. If incorrect, request a new ballot from the judge and watch to see that the old one is spoiled so it cannot be “voted” later. Also, report the specific machine to the judge and request that it be taken out of service until a technician can make sure it isn’t continuing to make errors on other people’s ballots.

More voting tips

If you notice anything odd, unusual, or misleading (something you don’t understand), ask the presiding judge for an explanation. If the presiding judge has no answer, request that he/she call the elections department for an explanation.

Do NOT leave the poll with your paper ballot. It is NOT a souvenir! It must be fed into the big machine at the door when you leave or it will not be counted.

The vast majority of issues occur with mail-in ballots. If mail ballots arrive after Election Day, they will not be counted. If you overlook or forget to fill in a piece of information, your ballot will be disqualified (this happens frequently!). You may be given a chance to “cure” your ballot by providing the missing information, but there is a strict deadline and most defective ballots are never cured.

The most secure way to vote is in person on Election Day

It is difficult or impossible for bad actors to overcome a tsunami of voters at the last minute. The longer your ballot sits in an unsecured location, the better the chance that someone has figured out a way to manipulate it in some way. Why take a chance?

Vote for EVERY race down the ballot, all the way to the bottom

This November’s ballots include federal, state, and local races. Many voters’ ballots will also include propositions that could significantly increase their property tax burdens. These questions are at the bottom of the ballot.

Voter turnout for mid-term elections is generally less than 50 percent. By failing to vote, you are handing a “win” to whichever side or candidate turns out the most voters (alive or dead!).

Election Day is November 8. Early voting runs October 24 through November 4.

NOTE: Contact information for county election officials is found on the Texas Secretary of State website.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

Maggie Whitt

Maggie Whitt is the State Republican Executive Committeewoman for Senate District 8. A retired teacher, she engages Texans in conservative politics and advocates for secure elections.