The current pandemic has certainly changed up a lot in 2020, so it’s no surprise that this election season will be different than years in the past. With this in mind, it’s all the more important this year to stay on top of changes in dates, deadlines, and the voting process, so you can ensure your vote counts! Regardless of your political position, voting is an empowering way to participate in local, state, and national elections.
To get started, you must register to vote in your primary state of residence. If you’re new to registering, forty states (plus the District of Columbia) allow voters to register at vote.gov - an official voter information site run by the U.S. Government. All you have to do is to enter your state and vote.gov will show you all the details you need to know about registering, voting, and deadlines! If you live in a state that requires in-person registration (or you prefer to register in-person), the process is still simple, but must be done at your local election office, or sometimes your local department of motor vehicles. Mail-in registration is often an option as well - to register this way, you simply print off the registration form and mail it in according to your state’s specific instructions.
If you’ve previously registered, you need to make sure your registration is up to date! Updates are required if you change your name or move, and if you’ve moved to an entirely new state, you’ll need to register in that state. You can check the status of your registration, here.
Registration requirements and deadlines vary from state to state. For the most part, you need to be a United States citizen, a resident of the state you’re registering in, at least eighteen years old, and not convicted of a felony. Find out the requirements for registering, specific to your state, here. Keep in mind, how you register will also affect how soon before an election you must be registered by. The registration deadline in some states is as much as 30 days before the election. Double-check the deadline in your state, here.
For the first time, it’s looking likely that most votes in 2020 will be cast by mail. Now, if you’re in Oregon or Washington, maybe this is old news--as 97% of voters in those states voted by mail in 2016. In-person voting will still be available, and you can find your nearest public polling site, here. However, it’s never been easier to opt for mail-in voting, as states aim to decrease the spread of Covid-19. In only six states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, or Indiana) it’s required that you have an additional reason, beyond coronavirus, to vote by mail. To vote in person, bring your photo ID (required by most states) to an official polling place and cast your vote on election day (Tuesday, November 3rd).
To make voting by mail easier, a number of states are automatically mailing voter absentee ballots, while others require that voters request a mail-in ballot (and some will automatically mail you an application for a mail-in ballot). All of this is to say, the mailing back and forth of these materials takes some time, so give yourself plenty! It’s recommended that the latest you request a ballot is two weeks prior to election day. Ok, so you’ve applied for or requested your absentee ballot, and once you have it--now what? Complete your ballot according to the included instructions and requirements. For example, a few states require that your absentee ballot be signed by a witness or include a photocopy of your ID. Stay on top of these requirements by visiting your state’s election website for the most accurate information. You can search the web for your state’s website, or find it in this directory. *It’s not uncommon for your vote to be “uncounted” if your signature is incorrect or looks suspicious on your ballot, so make sure your signature matches the one you have on your ID that is registered with your state!
Once completed, you need to mail in your ballot no later than one week prior to Election Day, so October 27th. Note that the postal service will likely be overwhelmed with distributing and receiving mail-in ballots, so request them early and vote early, if at all possible! If you’re crunched for time or worried about sending it through the mail, you can drop off your ballot at a local collection box (often located where you’d vote in-person). If you mail it in, you can track the status of your ballot on your Secretary of State’s website.
The latest state-by-state voting updates and information are all available at vote.gov. This directory includes links to your individual state’s registration website so you can find information on requesting an absentee ballot, check your registration, register if you’re a first-time voter, and more. The key to successfully voting this year is to give yourself plenty of time to move through the modified voting process!
With all the options for voting in 2020, we’ll hopefully see an increase in voter participation. It wasn’t until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 that women had the right to vote, guaranteed in the Constitution. With this year being the 100th anniversary of the passing of this landmark amendment, there has never been a better time to exercise our right to vote and honor the hard work of women before us.
And don’t forget to rock your SheVotes sticker included in this month’s Freedom VIP Box ;)