A comprehensive guide to voting in the 2020 election
It’s safe to say there’s a lot going on in the world right now. There is a nationwide call to action to end police brutality, increased demand for greater transparency about white privilege and the racism that still exists in our systems, and an ongoing fight for LGBTQ rights. Oh, and we’re still dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some people are calling this time a revolution, others are simply saying it’s time for a change. But understanding how to vote is key in being able to enact change—and no, we’re not just talking about the president.
These issues and many others stem from a local level and make their way up to higher government officials that we also have the ability to vote for. FYI: Voting in primary elections is just as important as voting in the presidential election. And the good news is, it really isn’t that hard to do.
So we’ve created a comprehensive guide to knowing how, when, and where to vote. Read this, research your candidates, and ask yourself these questions to complete your civic duty. Your vote counts.
Am I registered to vote?
Sites like Rockthevote.org have easy-to-use forms that help you see if and where you are registered. Simply type in your name, address, and date of birth, and the site will scan voter databases to let you know the status of your registration. If you are not registered, the site will direct you to sign up.
Additionally, you can register to vote via your state’s election site or go to usa.gov to start your voter registration. These forms can be filled out online and mailed in with a signature or completed in person at your local election office.
Just be sure to check the U.S. Vote Foundation website to find your state’s deadline for registering.
Where do I vote?
Once you’ve registered, you’ll need to locate your polling place to find exactly where to go to vote on Election Day. Check out vote411.org and type in the street address with which you registered. You can also use the Polling Place Locator tool on vote.org to be directed to your state’s election site and given the address of your designated polling place. Usually, this location will be a local school, town hall, or another public facility.
It’s important that you use your current residential address when registering to vote so that your polling place is identified correctly.
When should I vote?
Aside from the biggie, which is, of course, the general election on November 3rd, 2020, you should vote in the presidential primaries. These occur usually occur a few months before the general election. While most primaries happen in June and July, check this chart to see when your presidential primary is happening in your town, or if it has already passed. Then, gear up for the general election, where you’ll have the ability to vote for the president, plus members of the House and Senate and local positions that need to be filled.
How do I vote?
To vote in person, you’ll need to show up at your designated polling place. Different states have different polling hours, but most are open from early morning to evening on Election Day.
When you get there, some states (two-thirds) require you to provide identification in order to vote at the polls. According to federal law, all first-time voters who didn’t register in person or show ID before must show identification.
After that, you’ll be ushered to complete your ballot. To see who is on your ballot beforehand, check out sites like vote-usa.org and vote411.org, which you can find based on your address. This makes it super easy to do your research and show up to your voting polls confident and informed.
To cast your vote, you’ll fill out the ballot in person (the protocol for this varies by state) and return it to a polling official before you leave.
Can I vote online?
No, you can not vote online. According to usa.gov, in most elections in the United States, you either need to vote in person at an official polling place or by casting an absentee ballot. This is primarily for safety and accuracy reasons.
How do I cast an absentee ballot?
If you’re unable to cast your ballot in person for any number of reasons, you may be eligible to request an absentee ballot this year due to coronavirus. This allows you to cast your vote for elected officials by filling out a paper ballot and mailing it to your election office.
Start by visiting your state or territorial election office website and looking for “Absentee Voting” or “Voting By Mail;” then, make sure to request a ballot by the deadline, fill it out, and send it back the day before Election Day to have it be counted.