Prepare to cast your vote by creating one voting schedule.
First things first: have you confirmed your voter registration yet? You must be registered to vote by mail or in person.
Everyone registered to vote? Let’s talk about your options.
View our easy voting guide here.
Every county has at least a few ways to cast a ballot—a combination of voting in person on Election Day and for example, an extended deadline for early voting. Or maybe there is expanded access to postal voting and Polling stations where you can vote in person. These options are handled differently depending on where you live due to our patchwork voting system, which includes more than 10,000 jurisdictions, all of which conduct elections in different ways.
The good news is, the more choices that are offered, the more likely you are to find the one that best suits your needs. Here we will broadly discuss tuning options.
Early voting in person or on election day
Even though many states have expanded the ability to vote by mail, many people prefer to do the work in person. Voters who have difficulty speaking or reading English may need an interpreter to help them cast their vote. Many people are wary of voting other than using an in-person system that allows them to see their vote being cast physically. Some states make it difficult to vote in other ways.
A nationwide campaign is underway to recruit people to man polling stations during early voting and on Election Day, and information on how to volunteer can be found here.
Most states — 46 in all — offer some form of early voting. Check your Secretary of State’s website for more details on local regulations and how many days early you can vote (if available). But if you can cast your ballot early in your state and are confident in your election, you should vote as early as possible.
Here’s why: if you go to your polling station and there’s a long line, you can try to come back early next election day. But if you move it to November 8th, you have no choice but to wait it out. This can help ease the rush on Election Day for other voters and poll workers.
How to vote personally
Would you rather fill out your ballot in person at your polling station? Follow these steps to create a personal tuning plan.
1. Locate your polling station. It could be that you didn’t choose last time. For some of you, your polling station doesn’t get sorted out until a few weeks before Election Day. Check your county election officer’s website for status on where to vote (and remember to double-check before voting time), or check here.
2. Decide if you want to go early or on election day. Check your Secretary of State’s website for early voting options.
3. Find out if you need ID. If you are voting for the first time, you must identify yourself at the polls. And some states require all voters to show ID. But what you need to bring with you varies by state. Sometimes drastic. You can check your state’s ID requirements here.
- Strict photo I WOULD: Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or US passport.
- Strict non-photo ID: Some states require a non-photo ID with your name and address e.g. B. a utility bill or a bank statement.
- Non-strict Voter ID: some states inquiry one of these forms of ID, but no ID is required to vote. In this category you can still vote on alternative options, e.g. B. signing an affidavit of identity, having your identity verified by election officials, or voting on a provisional ballot that is double checked by your local election officials. (But as with all things November 8th, your options depend on the state you’re voting in.)
- No document is required for voting: Finally, some states don’t require you to show ID at all — unless you’re a first-time voter.
Once you know where and when you’ll be voting in person, make sure you have enough time to travel to your polling station and possibly wait in line if it’s busy.
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia currently allow anyone to vote by mail — that is, by mail. Most of these places will require you to apply for a postal vote, although some will mail an application for one to every registered voter.
Fifteen states require an excuse for absentee voting. In most of these states, you can still apply to vote by mail if you are not in your county on election day, are ill or have a physical disability that makes voting difficult, are on active duty in the U.S. military, or work in a prescribed shift to coincide with election times.
see yours Secretary of State’s website for details on how to get your ballot. If you live in a state that requires you to apply for absentee ballots, do so now. Polling stations are slammed shut in the weeks leading up to Election Day. And the sooner you request and receive your ballot, the sooner you can return it.
Postal voting has proven to be safe and effective.
In all states, absentee voting has a ballot return deadline. As with virtually every other part of the voting process, the deadline for voting by mail varies by state — but the U.S. Postal Service recommends voters take at least a week to mail their ballots before the due date required by each state to account for disruptions such as severe weather and other unforeseen circumstances. The sooner you send it, the safer you are.
If you want to bypass the mail, some states have ballot box drop-off boxes — a safe, proven way to return your ballots. With others, you can cast your postal vote at the district election office or at your polling station. Contact your local electoral office to review your filing alternatives (if any).
We’ve all heard false claims about fraudulent mail-in ballots, stuffed ballot boxes, and other outlandish statements designed to shake our confidence in election results. However, instances of voter fraud are extremely rare.
How to vote by mail
1. Check the deadlines for requesting and submitting a ballot. Check your Secretary of State’s website for details.
2. Find drop-off boxes that might work for you. Contact your local elections office to find out more about how to submit your absentee ballot.
3. Request the ballot! Why wait? The sooner you have your ballot, the sooner you can fill it out and submit it so your vote can be counted in time.
4. Fill out your ballot. Be sure to follow all instructions for marking your vote and sealing the envelope.
5. Submit your ballot before the deadline. Try to get your ballot in the mail at least a week before Election Day. Or see if your state has ballot boxes so you don’t have to worry about them being postmarked on time.
Get help voting—or help others
The right to vote is protected for those who cannot read, and the Voting Rights Act entitles people who struggle with literacy to receive voting assistance. This also applies to people who do not speak English and people with intellectual disabilities.
Our reporters recently delved into this in depth in a compelling investigation entitled “Fighting an Age-Old Effort to Stop Americans from Voting.” Here’s what they found:
“Among all the recent uproar over the right to vote, little attention has been paid to one of the most sustained and brazen crackdown campaigns in America: an attempt to block polling booth help for people who have trouble reading — a group that numbers about 48 million Americans or more than a fifth of the adult population. ProPublica analyzed voter turnout in 3,000 counties and found that those with lower estimated literacy rates had lower voter turnout, on average.”
But you can help. Read our report on how to simplify voting and share our simple voting guide!