A Comprehensive Guide to Voting in 2020

Everything you need to know about voting in this year's elections

This year’s election is the most important in modern history - the next U.S. President will determine our collective future. Thus, it’s absolutely crucial that everyone who can vote casts their ballot. It can be confusing—especially given the pandemic—but luckily for you, this is a comprehensive guide to voting in 2020, answering all of your voting questions and fulfilling all of your voting needs. 

1. Registering to vote

There are many steps in the voting process, but the first step is to register to vote. To register, go to Vote.org, and enter the state and county you live in. From there, you’ll receive further information on how to become registered. According to the website, it takes only 2 minutes to register to vote, so there is fear of a prolonged waiting period.

2. Voting in-person or requesting a mail-in ballot 

The coronavirus is changing the way we are voting this year, so many people will vote by mail-in ballot. However, some states will not be closing their in-person polling places. Others will have restrictions on how many people are allowed in the same area at a time. If you are voting in person, getting there on time and following your state’s specific instructions is best. 

Since you usually have to go a polling place to vote, such as a school, church, or other polling places, many are turning to mail-in ballots (also called absentee ballots). Some states still require an excuse, but don't be deterred. Most people qualify to get mail-in ballots (especially during this pandemic). You might have to fill in a form or email an official in your town or country, but overall, requesting an absentee ballot is easy. Just make sure that your election officials have the correct address to send the ballot to. You can check all this on Vote.org. But please, don't wait to request your mail-in ballot. We are getting closer to the election every day, and it is best to be prepared. Many states have deadlines to register set in late October, but some have early October deadlines set. Either way, it never hurts to be early. 

3. Filling in your ballot the correct way 

This is the third step in voting, and though it may seem easy, this is the step in which most people mess up. Following the instructions to fill in the ballot may seem tedious, and you might want to stray from them a bit, but you must not do this. Following the instructions to the T is always best. Make sure you are filling out the ballot on a smooth, flat surface, and that you are careful not to smudge or stain the ballot. Do not use markers, colored pens, or other writing utensils that could cause problems later on. Again, it is best to follow the instructions; if using a black pen is on the instructions, make sure to use a black pen. Any small slip-up could cause your vote to be skipped. Signatures are also an important part of the process. Make sure you are using your proper signature, and that is the one that you use for official records. A common mistake is signing the ballot itself—the signature is supposed to be on the envelope. Remember, instructions are key!

4. Returning the Ballot 

After filling out the ballot and checking that all information is correctly filled in, returning your ballot immediately is a good idea. Since more than five million are voting by mail this year, the post office will likely be swamped with late ballots. Mailing in ballots early has been very common; most people are afraid that the postal service will take too long to deliver ballots on time. Some states let you turn in your ballot up to seven days before the election, but this doesn't mean that you can send it in at the last minute. Make sure that you are giving the post office enough time to get your ballot to your local election officials. 

This year, voting is more important than ever. Whether you are going to an in-person voting poll or mailing in your ballot, your vote does matter, and it does make a difference. Voting and expressing your opinions is the foundation of democracy, so make sure to exercise your rights and vote!

Please find more resources below (provided by the Campus Election Engagement Project): 

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