Voting in the Presidential Election: What You Need to Know

The clock is ticking for voters to ensure that their paperwork is in order before the presidential election. With tensions high and poll numbers close between Biden and Trump, being prepared to cast a vote is the most valuable way for citizens to make a political stance-even more than flying a flag or slapping on a bumper sticker. 


Registering

U.S. citizens aged 18 or older are eligible to vote. Registering is the first step. Vote.gov is the federal government’s official website for voting, and it’s where you can begin the registration process. You select the state that you’re a resident in when you register--not the one that you’re living in currently. If you aren’t sure where that is, it’s probably wherever your driver’s license is from. Every state has different requirements and deadlines for registering. For example, New York residents must be registered by October 9th in order to participate in the presidential election. Generally, states ask that you supply multiple methods of identification. NY asks for your driver’s license, zip code, and the last four of your social security number. This can be done online, by mail, or in person. 


If you aren’t sure if you’re registered or not, you can use the Check Your Registration tool at Vote.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout.


Mail-In Ballots

Because of health risks during the Covid-19 pandemic, mail-in voting is anticipated to be relied on heavily for the 2020 presidential election. However, many people are not familiar with voting by mail. Data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission shows that 23.6% of Americans voted through the mail for the 2016 presidential election.


To vote by mail you need to know what your state’s policies are. Some states use all-mail election systems, which means all eligible voters receive a ballot in the mail automatically. Other states offer absentee ballots without requiring a reason for the request, which means you can go online and request a ballot in the mail with no problem. States such as New York only offer absentee ballots to citizens with excuses they deem worthy, like being overseas. The graphic below shows what method each state uses. 




Once you have your ballot, it’s important to fill out and sign it correctly. An analysis by NPR posted last month shows that over 550,000 mail-in ballots for the presidential primaries this year have been rejected due to mistakes. Of them, 84,000 were from New York City. 


Voting in Person

If you didn’t vote by mail, you’ll have to vote in person. The presidential election takes place on the 3rd of November. Citizens are assigned polling places where they’re expected to vote. You can check to see where you need to go by using the Find Your Polling Place tool on the National Association of Secretaries of State website NASS.org. If you need to change your polling place, requests can be made online. Otherwise, just show up during your location’s hours and wait in line until you’re able to cast your ballot.


By Dale Mott Slater

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