Early voting started last week for the 2020 primary, but whether you vote early or on Tuesday, March 3, you’re going to need something the vast majority of voters in Guilford County have never needed to vote – and it isn’t an I.D., which you don’t need – it’s a writing utensil.

Fortunately, you don’t have to remember to bring one. But you need either “the marking device provided or a black ball point pen” to vote because, for the first time in at least half a century, Guilford County is voting with paper ballots.

It’s just like taking a standardized test and voters are supposed to fill in the little oval next to the name of the candidate they are voting for. Despite directions being posted, some voters are almost certainly going to circle the oval or put a check mark or X in the oval. Some might even cross out the names of the people they don’t want to vote for. Some will likely ignore the ovals and circle the names.

Voting for more than one candidate in a race that an electronic voting machine doesn’t allow is pretty easy when the voter is handmarking the ballot. It’s also much easier to skip a race when you’re marking the ballot by hand

In short, with thousands voting, most likely every possible improper way to indicate the candidate of choice will be attempted by some voter during the election.

But if you want to make certain that your vote counts, don’t try anything fancy – just follow the directions and blacken in the oval.

If you do make a mistake, the best option is to trade in your old ballot for a new one. The polls are supposed to have plenty, and putting arrows or X’s on the ballot is going to be confusing.

But there are likely to be snafus. No one working in the Board of Elections Office has worked an election in Guilford County when paper ballots were used. So handling all these paper ballots is a new process, not just for voters but for the people in charge of running the election.

Despite the fact that voting is now being done the old fashioned way with paper ballots, the elections office is still using modern technology, which means you can get an advanced copy of the candidates who will be on your ballot as opposed to looking at the composite ballot that has the candidates for every race.

To download a copy of the ballot for your precinct all you need to do is click on this: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

Then type in your name. It goes faster if you also select your county. Then you click on your name when it pops up. If your name doesn’t pop up, you may have misspelled your own name, or typed your last name where your first name is supposed to go.

Then you click on “Sample Ballots” and then “03/03/2020 Primary Sample Ballot.”

Since it seems like there are new districts every election, it’s hard for voters to keep up with exactly what district they are in for the current election. For example, a lot of voters in Guilford County don’t realize that they are now in the 6th Congressional District regardless of what district they were in for the 2018 election.