There are 90 days until the 2020 Election. 90 days till one of the biggest events in our democracy takes place. Which means, right now, it’s wise for each of us to take a civic inventory to make sure we’re ready for the final leg of election season.
Even if you’ve voted in every election since you’re 18, or if you’ve never voted at all, you’d be surprised how important some of these questions can be to ensure you’re ready to vote on Election Day. We’ll answer the eight key questions you should be asking yourself with links to official websites that can quickly help you. In most cases, we’ll include a government website and a leading non-profit organization to give you options and a wider range of research.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. AM I REGISTERED TO VOTE?
If you are a U.S. Citizen who will be over the age of 18 on November 3, 2020, you should register to vote in the upcoming national election. You may not realize this, but voter registration and almost all rules about voting are run by the states, not the federal government, which means the rules are different from state to state. To learn how to register to vote in your state, you can visit these sites:
2. HAVE I REQUESTED AN ABSENTEE OR MAIL-IN BALLOT?
Voting by mail is easier for a lot of people. You can research all the issues and candidates from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to take time off from work on a Tuesday to wait in lines. You can vote in your underwear! Plus, with the current pandemic, you don’t have to risk your health to vote. So now, more than ever, it may be important for you to request an absentee or mail-in ballot (which are both equally secure according to PolitiFact). These website make requesting your absentee or mail-in ballot easy:
DON’T WAIT TO REQUEST YOUR MAIL IN BALLOT! This election season is experiencing a huge uptick in the number of requests for mail-in ballots. While the USPS is confident it can meet demand, it has said that it could take up to 14 days for you to receive and return your request forms and ballots. So the earlier you send it, the more time that election offices and Secretary of State offices have to prepare and make sure that everyone who wants to vote by mail will be able to. Request your absentee or mail in ballots now!
But again, if you absolutely have to wait, you can find your state’s absentee ballot request deadline here — but the USPS is suggesting no later than 14 days before the election: https://www.vote.org/absentee-ballot-deadlines/
3. DOES MY STATE HAVE EARLY VOTING?
Sometimes you want to vote in person but you know it won’t be possible for you to vote on Election Day. That’s okay. Your state may let you vote during an early voting period. You can check out this chart here to find out the early voting rules in your state — but please, keep in mind that your state’s rules and voting dates may have recently changed due to the pandemic:
4. EVEN IF I’M REGISTERED, HAVE I RE-CHECKED MY REGISTRATION RECENTLY?
Even if you’ve voted in the past, have you checked your registration recently? There are many reasons to do this! If you haven’t voted in a while, your name may have been purged from the voter rolls by your state. This happens to millions of voters a year as states clean up their voter rolls.
Even if you’ve voted in every election since you’ve been eligible, your name may have been mistakenly removed from the voter rolls (as has happened to this author). Or you may have moved, and want to make sure you can vote in the area you live now.
There are so many reasons it makes sense to take the 30 seconds to re-check that you are registered and see if you have requested a mail-in ballot. You can do that here — it really does take less than a minute:
5. DO I KNOW MY POLLING PLACE?
Say you really want to vote in person. Or you want to drop off your mail-in ballot (which you can totally do, plus you won’t have to wait in any lines to do it!). You’ll need to know your polling place. You can find the address here:
[If the address isn’t showing up, your state may not yet know where all of its polling places will be. Check back in closer to the election.]
6. DO I WANT TO BE A POLL WORKER?
Poll workers are the reason our elections even happen. They open and close our voting centers, answer all manner of questions, and make sure we can all exercise our fundamental right to vote. You may not know, however, that half of all poll workers in 2016 were above he age of 60, which makes our poll worker community particularly susceptible to Covid-19.
We may have a significant shortage of poll workers in 2020, which could drastically limit how many polling stations we have — this could make lines much longer and actually prevent some people from voting. If you have the time and want to help the country vote, you should consider becoming a poll worker. In most states, poll workers are even paid for their help! You can sign up here:
7. DO I KNOW WHO I AM VOTING FOR?
It’s never too early to learn about the items that will be on your ballot. Do you know your current elected officials and which are running for office again? Do you know who is running against them? Do you know what propositions or referenda are going to be on your state, county, and local ballots?
There are less than three months until Election Day, so this is a great time to start googling the issues that will be on your ballot. You may be very surprised to find out how many of the items on your ballot will directly impact your day-to-day life. You can look up what will be on your ballot at any of these sites:
8. DO I HAVE OTHER ELECTION QUESTIONS?
You may have other questions about your ability to vote. It’s good to remember that voting rules are determined state-by-state. Here’s the easiest link to find your state’s election office website so you can find answers to your questions or contact the right people to answer them:
9. Am I Going to Vote?
The answer is yes. Right?