Every little thing you have to find out about voting in 2020 (however had been afraid to ask)

A collage of floating stickers that read “I voted” and Covid-19 particles. Tara Jacoby for Vox

Mail-in ballots, secure polling places, and fraud allegations are only some of the issues within the pandemic election.

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Lettie Fickling, of Colorado, has all the time voted by mail, a course of she says she enjoys. However with this yr’s election, she’s not so certain. She’s involved that current points with the postal service might stop her poll from getting in on time. She additionally has fears about voting in individual and probably being uncovered to Covid-19. She’s nonetheless undecided how she’ll vote.

“I’m having all these worries regardless of residing in a state with among the finest voter protections, finest mail-in voting infrastructure, and highest voter turnout,” Fickling informed Recode. “I can’t even think about how frightened folks have to be in locations like Texas.”

Due to the pandemic, extra People than ever are going through the identical choice as Fickling this yr. With expanded entry to mail-in voting, it’s anticipated that tens of hundreds of thousands extra folks will vote by mail than have in earlier elections.

On the similar time, america Postal Service, upon which a lot of the mail-in voting course of relies upon, has instituted cost-cutting measures which have delayed and disrupted mail deliveries. In-person voting could also be harder this yr, too; the pandemic has restricted the places that can be utilized as polling facilities in addition to the variety of folks keen to work in them — to not point out the variety of folks keen to make use of them. All this, heaped on a system that already had its issues.

“Coronavirus has laid naked all of the cracks in our election system and actually put pressure and stress on a system that’s not resourced properly sufficient to deal with plenty of pressure or stress,” mentioned Myrna Pérez, the director of Brennan Middle for Justice’s Voting Rights and Elections Program.

One of the best factor that you just, the voter, can do now’s make a plan for the way you’re going to vote and be as ready as doable to do it. Do that as early as you possibly can, and take your entire choices into consideration earlier than deciding which is finest for you. That will help you know what these choices are, we’re answering some incessantly requested questions on registering to vote, mail-in voting, and voting in individual.

One factor to notice: Voting guidelines differ state by state, and there may even be variances inside particular person states. So be sure to know what’s allowed and obtainable the place you reside. Your choices for voting could also be completely different this yr, and so they could even change between now and Election Day, so search for essentially the most up-to-date and dependable assets. We’ve offered hyperlinks to a few of these right here:

So … what ought to I do first?

Earlier than you possibly can vote, you must register (until you reside in North Dakota). New voter registrations are down considerably because of the coronavirus, which has closed DMV workplaces that often account for the overwhelming majority of voter registrations and canceled in-person voter registration occasions.

“We’re actually behind in our numbers associated to voter registration this yr,” Jeanette Senecal, senior director of Mission Affect for the League of Girls Voters, informed Recode.

Most states allow you to register on-line, so you are able to do it rapidly and simply with out having to depart your own home. Register as quickly as doable as a result of some states have deadlines in early October. And it’s a good suggestion to make a plan to vote early, when you have already made up your thoughts.

I’m already registered, so this doesn’t apply to me, proper?

Even in case you suppose you’re registered, there’s an opportunity you’ve been purged from voter rolls. So that you’ll need to double-check to verify — particularly in case your state has an early registration deadline. Practically each state has a strategy to examine your registration standing on-line, or you possibly can name your native election official.

“I examine my registration standing a few month earlier than Election Day, per week earlier than Election Day, and I examine it the day earlier than Election Day,” Pérez mentioned. “If one thing occurred, you need to find out about it earlier than you go into the polling place.”

Make certain your native board of elections has your present tackle. Should you’ve not too long ago moved to a different state, you have to to register in that state. And in case you’ve moved so not too long ago that you just don’t but have figuring out paperwork along with your new tackle (or in case you don’t have an tackle in any respect), you’ll most likely must examine along with your native election official to seek out out how one can nonetheless register. Each state has to allow you to vote in case you don’t have an tackle, however some make it a lot tougher to do that than others.

I’m listening to quite a bit about mail-in voting this yr. Can I do this?

In all probability, but it surely relies upon the place you reside. Whereas all states have some type of mail-in voting, only some of them primarily conduct their elections this manner. In most states, you’ll need to request a mail-in, or absentee, poll. Be sure to request this poll with loads of time on your board of elections to mail it to you and so that you can return it. With the put up workplace delays, this is likely to be extra time than you’d often count on, so be sure to’re maintaining along with your locality’s deadlines and constructing in sufficient time.

This yr, many states have expanded entry to mail-in voting because of the pandemic. As an example, some do not make voters state a cause for voting absentee, whereas others are permitting them to make use of the coronavirus as trigger to request an absentee poll. However some states haven’t completed this, and in case you reside in a type of, you possibly can solely vote by mail in case you meet sure eligibility necessities.

It’s vital to know what your locality’s guidelines are earlier than you even request a mail-in poll as a result of doing so could imply you possibly can’t vote in individual in any respect, even in case you don’t ship your mail-in poll again. Or you’ll have to deliver the mail-in poll to the polling location with you to be voided earlier than you possibly can vote in-person.

Remember that some states are nonetheless within the technique of increasing entry or have pending litigation to restrict entry to mail-in voting, so issues might change. Be sure to’re consulting essentially the most present sources of knowledge.

Okay, I bought my mail-in poll. What subsequent?

Should you’ve by no means voted by mail earlier than, it’s particularly vital that you become familiar with a course of you’re encountering for the primary time; there could also be guidelines you must observe that you just didn’t anticipate, like which writing utensil to make use of, or that you’ll have to signal the poll envelope. Comply with directions to the letter — not just for the poll itself but additionally for the envelope you must return it in.

“Folks get hung up as a result of they didn’t understand that the envelope that the poll got here in is the one which you must return to them,” Pérez mentioned. “Lots of people overlook to signal it.”

Kentucky, for instance, requires signatures on a number of envelopes:

 Kentucky State Board of Elections

Should you’re in a family with a number of voters with their very own ballots, watch out to maintain them (and the envelopes) separate from one another to keep away from mix-ups that may invalidate everybody’s vote.

“Folks would possibly suppose that to economize they will return a number of ballots in the identical envelope, however in actual fact you have to return them individually,” Senecal mentioned.

A whole bunch of 1000’s of ballots are rejected resulting from easy errors yearly. You don’t need yours to be one among them.

Do I’ve to return my mail-in poll by mail?

Most states require that you just obtain your poll within the mail, however you don’t need to return it that means. Each state lets you hand-deliver it to your native board of elections, and a few states have drop packing containers particularly for ballots. Some states will allow you to drop your vote off at polling places throughout early or regular voting hours, and a few states will assist you to designate another person to return your poll in case you can’t. Once more, lookup your state’s guidelines to see what you’re allowed to do.

How do I do know if my mail-in poll has been acquired?

Most states have a strategy to monitor your poll, which ought to give mail-in voters added peace of thoughts. Sadly, not all of them supply this. (It is best to examine your state’s election web site to study extra particulars — right here’s a helpful checklist of hyperlinks.) And a few states will even offer you an opportunity to confirm your vote if there’s a difficulty, reminiscent of a non-matching signature. Some, nonetheless, will simply throw out your vote with out supplying you with an opportunity to confirm it. Chances are you’ll by no means even understand it was rejected.

Should you reside in a type of states and also you’re not comfy with that uncertainty, mail-in voting may not be your factor. Jared Christensen, of Utah, informed Recode that his mail-in poll was rejected in 2016 as a result of, like 1000’s of others, his signature didn’t match what the native election officers had on file for him. He was given a possibility to confirm it, however he’s voted in individual ever since. This yr, nonetheless, he would possibly return to mail-in voting.

“I would favor to vote with mail-in, particularly if [coronavirus] instances spike once more with college beginning up,” Christensen mentioned.

I preserve listening to that mail-in voting is extra prone to fraud. Is that true?

It’s definitely comprehensible that some folks have issues about mail-in voting, a course of that many individuals haven’t used earlier than, know little about, and that some states have rushed into doing on a big scale for the primary time. Nonetheless, there isn’t a proof that mail-in ballots are any extra liable to fraud than in-person votes, and the states that already do largely by-mail elections haven’t reported extra incidents of fraud than the states that don’t. As we’ve detailed above, states have very strict guidelines about the right way to obtain, fill out, and return mail-in ballots which are designed to forestall fraud, amongst different checks and balances.

Even the loudest voice trumpeting unproven claims that mail-in ballots are main sources of fraud, President Trump, mails in his personal poll. He has even began encouraging his followers to take action as properly.

Mail-in voting isn’t for me. What about simply voting in individual?

For individuals who can’t or don’t need to vote by mail, there’s all the time the choice to vote in individual. Many states will even allow you to vote in individual early, which might scale back potential ready time in case you’re nervous about being in step with lots of people. Examine along with your state or native board of elections to be sure to know the place, when, and the right way to vote early.

Even in case you’ve voted in individual earlier than, issues will most likely be somewhat completely different this time round. As an example, your typical voting location may need modified. So examine as shut as doable to the election to be sure to’re going to the correct place, that you’ve got transportation to get there, and know what you would possibly must deliver with you to have the ability to vote — some states, for example, require you to have a type of ID.

However I’m afraid that voting in individual will expose me to the coronavirus.

That’s a legitimate concern, and checking along with your native officers to seek out out what security precautions your polling place is taking for Covid-19 will hopefully offer you some steering. Some stuff you would possibly need to ask about: Are the ballot staff masked? Are the voters required to put on masks and social distance? Will hand sanitizer be obtainable? Will surfaces be incessantly disinfected? Relying on the solutions to these questions, you could really feel higher about in-person voting, or you could determine that mail-in is a greater possibility for you. Each the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention and the Brennan Middle for Justice have come out with guides on finest practices for secure in-person voting, and so they’re an excellent place to begin to discover out extra.

Some specialists consider voting in individual this yr must be thought-about pretty secure. Senecal says she’s heard good issues about how polling places are getting ready for secure in-person votes, however she encourages folks to deliver their very own provides in the event that they’re involved the polling place received’t have sufficient, like a private bottle of hand sanitizer. If doable, vote in the course of the less-busy occasions (mid-morning and mid-afternoon) to scale back how a lot time you’ll need to spend in line and the way crowded your polling location shall be.

Can I simply vote twice, like President Trump informed me to do?

Voting twice is illegitimate, however some states do allow you to forged a mail-in poll and vote in individual; your in-person vote will depend and the vote by mail shall be discarded. However some states received’t allow you to do that. Examine along with your native official to seek out out what the foundations are in your state.

What you shouldn’t do is use an in-person vote to “ensure” your mail-in poll was counted, as Trump recommended. That may result in longer traces and wait occasions in addition to enhance the danger of spreading the coronavirus. It’s additionally pointless when many states allow you to monitor your mail-in poll from the consolation of your individual dwelling. Should you’re actually involved that your mail-in vote wasn’t acquired and need to vote in-person, fill out a provisional poll on the polling location. That shall be counted in case your mail-in poll, for no matter cause, isn’t acquired.

I heard there’s a scarcity of ballot staff and I need to assist. What can I do?

Worry of in-person voting has not solely prompted the rise of mail-in voting however has additionally led to an anticipated scarcity of ballot staff and the variety of polling places, both as a result of the same old places don’t need to host crowds this yr or they will’t get the workers to run them.

“There’s going to be a scarcity of assets, there’s going to be an issue with ballot staff,” Pérez mentioned. “I can let you know that heaps and many individuals are working tremendous laborious to attempt to fill the ballot employee hole.”

If it’s an possibility for you, take into account changing into a ballot employee on Election Day. There are a number of recruiting initiatives on the market, or you possibly can contact your native election officers to enroll.

That is getting too difficult for me. Ought to I simply skip voting this yr?

No! In reality, it’s extra vital than ever that you just vote.

There are sure to be some glitches or snafus on Election Day, as there are yearly. All the brand new guidelines and adjustments will possible add to the confusion. Your poll would possibly take longer to reach within the mail, you may need to attend longer than typical on the polling location, ballot staff may not be as speedy or well-versed in voting guidelines as you’d hope. Should you suppose that your proper to vote is being infringed on, you possibly can name your native elections official, or your state may need an election safety hotline, or you possibly can name the American Civil Liberties Union’s 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

“The truth is, that is going to be an election in contrast to one which we’ve lived by way of,” Pérez mentioned. “I feel it’s going to be critically vital that voters be very robust advocates for his or her proper to vote, but additionally perceive that we’re on this collectively and be affected person and constructive.”

When will we all know who received?

Specialists stress that People must be ready to not have the night-of outcomes we’ve develop into accustomed to and that this can be a regular a part of the method. Some states settle for ballots so long as they’re postmarked by Election Day, which implies they could not obtain some votes till after that day has handed. It’ll take time to course of and depend all of the votes, and a few states can’t even begin doing that till the in-person polls shut.

“That is the method working,” Senecal mentioned. “The officers are taking the time to make sure that each vote of their communities is counted. This isn’t an uncommon course of. That is really the method that occurs each single cycle. The official vote depend and the official outcomes have by no means been obtainable on Election Day.”

So whoever is main whenever you go to mattress on November Three could properly not be the winner, just because comparatively few ballots have been counted at that time. That’s particularly vital to remember now that the president is suggesting that such a situation implies that the election was someway “rigged.”

“I can think about plenty of terribly good and really compelling the explanation why we would not know on Election Day,” Pérez mentioned. “I don’t suppose voters perceive that there’s that facet of it.”

Sooner or later, in fact, we could have the ultimate election outcomes. We’ll additionally know if the present election system is constructed to deal with nationwide crises that make it tougher to vote in individual. If nothing else, we’ll know what we have to do to make sure simpler, free, and honest elections subsequent time — pandemic or not. Hopefully, our elected officers will act on that.

“The factor that I’m most frightened about is that, as a rustic, we’re not going to study from this expertise,” Pérez mentioned. “In the very best of circumstances, on the very best day, we under-fund and under-resource our elections. We don’t construct in sufficient resiliency into our techniques. And our proper to vote shouldn’t be solely basic, it’s the means we resolve political variations peacefully on this nation.

“Our elections are so vital, however they should be constructed to face up to no matter disaster of the second will get thrown at us.”

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