So, we’re getting very, very close to Election Day 2020 (it’s on Nov. 3!), and it is imperative that as many people as possible fill out their ballots and vote. Our political system is ridiculously flawed in many ways, but for right now, it’s also the only political system that we have. It’s so important to remain involved and do your part to create the type of country you want to live in — but it takes some preparation.
Whether you’ve voted in dozens of elections or this will be your very first one, there are a few things every voter needs to make sure they have done before Nov. 3. Starting with: Making sure you’re registered to vote.
How do I know if I’m registered to vote?
We cannot stress this enough: You need to check your voter registration status before Election Day. Like, now. Sometimes, voter records fall through the cracks and people don’t realize that they can’t legally vote until it’s too late to do anything about it — maybe they’ve moved recently or changed their name and didn’t re-register, for instance. Or maybe they were victims of illegal voter suppression. No matter who you are or who you want to vote for, you should check your voter registration status ASAP.
The Constitution mandates that the election is run by individual U.S. states. That means that you’ll have to check your voter status following your particular state’s procedures. The easiest way to do this is by going to the “Can I Vote?” website for the National Association of Secretaries of State. Scroll down and click on “Voter Registration Status,” select your state, and follow the prompts to find your status. If your information is incorrect, you may need to re-register to vote. Which brings us to:
How can I register to vote?
As with most election details, registering (or re-registering) to vote will vary from state to state. For the most up-to-date information, visit vote.gov and select your state or territory, then follow the instructions provided there. Most states support online voter registration, so you won’t even have to leave your house to ensure your vote will count in the upcoming election!
You do want to make sure that you have registered to vote prior to your state’s registration deadline. However, if you somehow miss the deadline, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t vote! Many states allow same-day voter registration, meaning that you can register and vote on Election Day and still have your vote count.
How do I request a mail-in ballot?
This year’s election is atypical for so many reasons, but a big one is the fact that we’re still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many people are choosing to vote by mail rather than risk their safety (or others’) by voting in person. For many, voting by mail is both easy and convenient (even when there’s not a pandemic to worry about).
Once again, you’ll want to check with your specific state’s board of elections for details on requesting a mail-in or absentee ballot. Make sure you do this prior to your state’s deadline, too! Note that in some states (though not all), you will need to cover postage costs for your ballot, so you may want to be sure to have stamps on-hand (also, you get to support the USPS! Yay!).
Your mail-in ballot will need to be postmarked — or dropped off at a dropbox or election office — by Election Day (Nov. 3). That being said, your best bet is to mail your ballot in as soon as possible. That way, you won’t forget and won’t have to worry about mail delays causing an issue.
If you are going to vote in person, be sure to wear a mask (you may need to remove it to help the polling place workers confirm your identity), maintain at least 6 feet of distance between your fellow voters, and — please — be patient with the people working the polls.