The 2020 election season promises to be extremely active, and while it’s important for everyone that can vote to do so, the realities of the coronavirus pandemic can make that task seem very frightening and disheartening. But not to worry; just follow these guidelines to ensure your vote counts.
- Check Your Voter Registration Status
Don’t skip this step. Before you can vote, you’ve got to be registered to vote. And don’t assume the registration remains active, even if you’ve voted recently. Voter rolls have been purged in some states, and the pandemic has severely curtailed the registration options. Odds are good that registration drives that can get people registered to vote will be rare this year, so don’t expect anyone to come knocking on your door to ask if you’ve been registered.
So how do you check your voting status in a safe manner? Visit the National Association of Secretaries (NAS) website and click on the “Can I Vote?” page. You can also type “Can I Vote?” into a search engine. Once there, click on “Register to Vote” or “Voter Registration Status.” From there, select your state from the menu and follow the instructions. You can also check with the Supervisor of Elections in your home county and the U.S. Vote Foundation.
- Make a Plan
Once you’ve confirmed you can vote, it’s time to select a voting method. Multiple options exist here:
-Polling sites: You can locate your polling place, which will allow you to walk up, show your voter ID and a valid form of identification, and then vote on the premises. Choosing this option means taking into consideration several factors, such as the amount of time it will take to vote, travel time to and from the polling place, and whether using this option will present a danger due to the coronavirus pandemic.
-Early Voting: Find out when the polls officially open and how soon your polling location will allow you to vote.
-Mail-In or Absentee Voting: Easily the best way to avoid the crowded polling places and minimizing any possible exposure to the coronavirus. Rule and restrictions vary from state to state - some require the voter to supply a reason why they need a mail-in/absentee ballot, others require a voter to contact the supervisor of elections office to request the ballot – but it’s important to remember that no state forbids the practice. If you want a mail-in/absentee ballot, you can get a mail-in/absentee ballot.
It’s important to make a plan on how to vote soon, as waiting until Election Day will only add to the stress of making your vote count.
- Things to Remember
If you’ve decided to vote in person, make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the polling site. The 2020 election looks to be a very voter-heavy election season, which could potentially mean long lines at the polling site. Verify your voter information prior to arriving and bring your own black pen. Follow basic protection recommendations, too, like wearing a mask; maintaining six feet of social distance and using hand sanitizer often.
For mail-in/absentee ballots, pay attention to deadlines for requesting and sending back a ballot. Mark the ballot carefully and be sure to read and follow the ballot instructions carefully, especially in regard to signature placement. If you’re worried about the ballot getting lost in the mail, find out where the ballot drop-off points will be located. And if you’ve requested a mail-in/absentee ballot but haven’t received it, don’t wait until Election Day to request a replacement.