Election Day 2020 is a week away and early voting remains underway in states across the country! Now is the time to make your plan for how you will cast your vote safely and securely on or before Tuesday, November 3.
A voting plan is your playbook for how and when you will cast your ballot for the upcoming election, and the tools you need to do so.
For some voters, it may mean taking time off from work or getting up early to go to the polls in person. For others, it may mean requesting and returning a mail-in ballot or taking advantage of local early voting opportunities. Creating a voting plan that fits your needs makes casting your ballot easier and less prone to complications. This year is unlike any other election year in recent memory.
Here are four easy ways that our one-stop-shop for election information:
STEP 1: CHECK YOUR REGISTRATION STATUS/REGISTER TO VOTE.
Are you registered to vote? Is your registration up to date? If you’re uncertain, enter your name and address at VOTE411.org to check your registration status. Not registered? No problem! You can register to vote on VOTE411.org as well, but be sure to check your state’s registration deadline.
VOTE411 lists current deadlines for each state to register to vote for November 3. Some states allow voters to register in person on Election Day or during early voting, while others require that you register up to 30 days in advance.
STEP 2: LEARN ABOUT YOUR EARLY VOTING OPTIONS.
Once you’ve confirmed your voter registration, it’s time to determine how and when you are going to vote this year. Most states offer a range of voting options for 2020, which can help ensure you participate in the election even if you are nervous about exposure to COVID-19 by voting in person.
Option 1: In-person early voting polling locations.
Does your state allow early voting? Early voting allows registered voters to vote in person, at a designated polling location, or at their local election official’s office on specified dates before Election Day, without an excuse or stated reason.
If you do vote in person, it’s important to find out where your polling location is, determine how you’re going to get there — walk, bike, car, or other forms of transportation — and decide when you’re going to vote. It’s critical that you follow all current COVID-19 safety guidelines: wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, stay six feet away from other people, and for good
measure, bring your own black pen and avoid peak voting times (usually when the polls open and when the polls close).
Voting during non-peak times helps keep the lines shorter, protecting you and helping to keep those that can only vote during peak times safer.
Option 2: In-person absentee voting.
In some states, you may cast an absentee ballot in-person
before Election Day. To do this, you must request an absentee ballot from your state and complete it at an official government office, such as a Board of Elections, instead of a designated polling location. Your state may also require you to have a qualifying reason for voting absentee.
Option 3: Absentee/mail-in voting.
The biggest differences between “absentee” and “vote-by-mail” are whether a voter has to request a ballot be sent to them and whether a voter needs to
have a qualifying reason. States that use an absentee voting system require voters to request a mail-in ballot, and some require you to state a qualifying reason for why you are unable to vote in person on Election Day.
A state that uses a vote-by-mail system proactively mails a ballot to
every registered voter, without the voter needing to ask for it. A unique aspect of this year is that many states are using their standard absentee voting system to allow people to vote by mail for the November election, while others are joining the ranks of states that proactively mail a ballot to all registered voters, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, some states are still in the process of deciding who is allowed to participate in absentee/mail-in voting this year. If you’re voting by mail, you don’t necessarily have to mail your ballot back. In some states, you can drop your ballot off at a secure drop box or deliver it directly to a voting location or local government office. The drop boxes may be supervised by election workers or may have other security features, such as cameras.
If you do drop your ballot in the mail, rest assured that it will reach its destination; the U.S. Postal Service is ready to handle the volume of ballots expected this year. (Even if every American voted by mail, it still wouldn’t compare to what the USPS handles every holiday season.)
Most importantly: If you’re voting by mail this year, act EARLY! Request, if necessary, and return your absentee/mail-in ballot as soon as you can.
Option 4: Vote in person on Election Day.
Do you need or want to vote in person on Election Day? No problem. Most states have in-person voting on Election Day, though your usual polling location may not be open.
Make sure to check your community’s local details on in-person polling locations and hours of operation.
STEP 3: RESEARCH THE CANDIDATES.
From local elections to national contests, take time to explore all the candidates on your ballot and hear from the candidates in their own words, because this election also includes important state and local races. To learn where candidates stand on the issues important to you, watch or attend candidate debates and forums in your community, and explore all of the information provided to you.
STEP 4: SHARE YOUR PLANS.
Elections represent our chance to stand up for what matters most to us and to have an impact on the issues that affect us, our communities, our families, and our future. Make a plan that is comfortable and works for you. Then, make sure all your friends and family have one, too. Tell everyone what you learned in the process of making your voting plan and encourage them to make their own plan to vote.