Every election, it’s important to prepare a voting plan. Throw in a global pandemic, protests, voter suppression attempts, postal insanity, and an election where our survival literally hangs in the balance, and whew, friends, we’ve got a hot, steamy 2020 mess. As we count down to November 3, 2020, here are some questions you need to be asking yourself to get a plan together. Then ask your friends, family, drive-through barista, that person who walks past your house each afternoon, and literally every human you come across. There’s no such thing as being annoying when our democracy is on the line.
Am I registered to vote?
Have you confirmed your voter registration status? You might be thinking “I voted in the last election. I’m on top of this.” But NO. Check it. Then recheck it. It’s easy. It takes under two minutes. If you type quickly, maybe even under one minute. No excuses. Select your state from the dropdown here, and you’ll be brought right to the page for your state.
I’m not registered to vote! What do I do?
Time will be of the essence. Many states have a voter registration deadline as early as October 5, so don’t hit snooze on this one. Find out if you need to register to vote by mail, or if it’s available online in your area. Some states even offer same-day voter registration if you bring ID to the polls, but you’ll want to check and see what you need to bring, and if it’s even an option for you.
How will you vote?
Should I vote in person? Is it safe to vote by mail?
These are the million dollar questions this year. That whole pandemic thing means that more states than ever are allowing voting by mail for all folx without an excuse. If you’re in Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas, you’ll need a justification for voting by mail. Recent USPS delays and shutdowns have many people concerned about the vote by mail process. Lots has been said about voter fraud, but no studies have shown evidence of this as a statistically relevant issue. It does take more time to have all votes counted, and if your ballot isn’t received in time, it’s not going to be counted. If you are going to vote by mail, send your ballot in as early as possible, and if your state offers online ballot tracking, use it.
Can I drop off my mail-in ballot in person?
This is called in-person absentee voting. You should check with your polling location to see if your state allows for in-person absentee ballots so you can drop off your mail-in ballot in person early. Some locations will require that you fill it out there, while others will set up a secure drop-box. You’ll want to confirm this before-hand.
Have you requested your mail-in ballot? What’s the deadline to request a mail-in ballot?
Some states will automatically mail ballots to all registered voters, but in most states you’ll still need to request a ballot ahead of time. The deadline for the first states is October 9th, so if you’re set on voting by mail, make sure you check the requirements.
When will you vote? Does your polling station allow for early voting?
Many are still pointing to voting in-person as the best option to make sure your ballot is counted when it is safe to do so. Your state may be offering early voting, which typically allows for shorter lines and less interaction, which may be a safer option for many people. Check to see what your state allows.
Where do I vote?
Where is your polling station? It may have changed since the last time you voted, so check using this tool.
How do I get to the polls?
This may be less of a concern if you’re voting by mail, but those voting in-person may still have concerns. According to CIRCLE, the third most common reason for not voting among non-college youth was a lack of transportation. Ride-share provider Lyft has announced “for the first time, we’re providing voters with free and discounted rides to the polls throughout the entire primary calendar and the general election.”
Do I need childcare?
Kids are always welcome at the polls (and usually get a sticker from the poll workers for hanging in there!), but this parent understands that doing your civic duty also becomes at least 12 times harder when you have little hands to hang on to. If juggling childcare, work, and other responsibilities is just impossible, check out those early voting times. Do you have a co-parent, family member, or friend you can take turns with? Can someone come for a ride with you and sit in the car with the kids? Maybe voting by mail is going to be your best bet.
Can I take time off from work to vote?
Most states require employers to provide time off to allow people to vote. Just keep your manager informed of what you need. If your workplace schedules shifts ahead of time, make sure you submit any requests necessary based on poll times that work for you.
What do I need to bring with me to vote?
Depending on voter ID laws in your state, do you have the necessary paperwork and documents? Some states require proof of identification, some don’t require anything. Make sure you check what you need to bring and ensure you have it all ready to go.
What’s on the ballot? Any local issues?
This year we all know what the big race is, but there’s a lot more down-ballot issues that are important. Look for your sample ballot (example of the actual ballot you’ll be voting) online. Review the candidates running and do your research about how you’d like to vote. Look at the questions or issues posed, if any are on your ballot. Be sure to review the wording so you know exactly what voting “yes” or “no” would mean. Even if you’ve seen the issues on a previous ballot, wording may change, so your previous affirmative vote might now actually be in opposition of your intentions.
And that’s it! You’ve done your civic duty. No matter how November 3rd goes down, know that you participated in the democratic process and it matters. Don’t doubt this power even if it goes a different way than you hope it does.