Congratulations on becoming a registered voter! Although 2020’s Election Day has passed, our country’s issues still remain, waiting to be fixed. Click the different sections below to explore which issues matter the most to you, the various ways of voting available to you in the next election cycle, and see how you can volunteer.
Exercising your right to vote is always important, but right now, during a pandemic, it is critical to do so safely. If you are voting in person, remember to wear a mask and stay six feet away from others at all times. Keep in mind that there may be long lines due to reduced polling volunteers and polling sites, so it may be necessary to block out more time than you believe you will need. If you are feeling any sort of symptoms leading up to and on election day, we strongly recommend voting absentee, as to not infect others. Many states will allow you to request an absentee ballot the day of an election that you can fill out on the spot and return immediately. If you are worried about catching COVID-19, many states are now allowing that as a reason to vote absentee. Find out more about voting absentee in our next column.
Standard in-person voting may become a thing of the past with upcoming elections in 2020. With the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, many states, such as New York, are switching to a solely vote-by-mail method for their upcoming primaries and local elections. States fear that such a large gathering of people at polling sites would lead to thousands more people falling ill with the virus, or due to the fear of the virus, voter turnout would be remarkably low, hindering our system of democracy. Though many have experience with absentee, mail, and early voting, turnout more than doubled from 24.9 million in 2004 to 57.2 million in 2016 (source: https://www.eac.gov/documents/2017/10/17/eavs-deep-dive-early-absentee-and-mail-voting-data-statutory-overview ); still there are many questions surrounding these types of voting. Absentee, mail, and early voting is generally standardized across the country, though just like registration, each state may have its own rules and regulations, and many of these current practices may be reevaluated to fit the needs and concerns of the people during this pandemic. To find what your state protocols are, visit: https://www.usa.gov/election-office.
Traditionally with an absentee ballot, you need to file a request within a certain block of time before an election. You may need to state a reason for the request such as being out of state during the election, an inability to leave the house on the day of the election, or a disability. Once you are sent your absentee ballot, you may need to sign forms confirming your identity and the reason why you are voting absentee. Then you must send your ballot in the envelope it comes with, making sure there is more than enough time for it to arrive at your polling place. If your absentee ballot does not come before the end of polling hours on election day, it will not be counted, so plan ahead and be prompt! To request an absentee ballot, use the tool below.
There are two ways to return your absentee ballot: in person, or through mail. Return your absentee ballot to your polling place by the end of voting hours in person, or make sure to leave enough time for your ballot to get to your polling place by mail before the end of polling hours on election day. If your ballot is not at your polling place by this specific time (typically around 7 or 8 pm) your vote will NOT be counted. Luckily, absentee ballots are usually sent out weeks before election day, and in some states you can even track your ballot after you send it in the mail.
Some states offer a period of time before the date of an election where you can go in early to cast your ballot. Oftentimes you do not need an excuse to vote early, but it is best to first check with your state and local polling sites.