How to prepare to vote in this year’s election

By Olivia Montes

Lifestyle Editor

Since July, the United States Postal Service has issued national warnings for states to prepare a voting plan to coordinate an effectual and yet safe system for citizens to continue exercising their legal right—despite being amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall, 26 states and Washington, D.C., have in some way expanded voter access to mail ballots for the 2020 general election, with the broad goal of making it easier for people to vote amid a global health crisis,” The New York Times’ Juliette Love, Matt Stevens, and Lazaro Gamio said on Aug.14th, 2020.  

While each state differs in their approach to providing either enclosed polling sites or mail-in ballots to each recorded home to promote major turnout, it is important for each person to educate themselves about options available to them—and how they can make sure that both their vote and voice are heard—prior to Election Day, while also making a decision that is best for them.

Voting by mail

With nearly 76% of states permitting residents to either take vote by mail or opt for an absentee ballot for this upcoming election—in lieu of standing in line to cast a ballot, thus further putting themselves at risk—citizens will now have the chance to make their vote count from the comfort of their own home, and, as New York Times studies have shown, this choice has been very favorable to both returning and new voters.

“At least three-quarters of all American voters will be eligible to receive a ballot in the mail for the 2020 election — the most in U.S. history, according to a New York Times analysis,” Love, Stevens, and Gamio said. “If recent election trends hold and turnout increases, as experts predict, roughly 80 million mail ballots will flood election offices this fall, more than double the number that were returned in 2016.”

The nation’s response to handling both the continuance of the pandemic itself, alongside producing an effective voting system for the time being, allows for those still hesitant to resume any state of normalcy to participate—regardless of other responsibilities that would otherwise prevent them from voting under normal circumstances.

“Concerns about the potential for virus transmission at polling places have forced many states to make adjustments on the fly that — despite President Trump’s protests — will make mail voting in America more accessible this fall than ever before,” they added.

However, be wary: because of the hurried pace to provide Americans with a safe and socially-distant chance to participate in this year’s election lacking in solid structure, as well as a significant lack of volunteers to look through each cast ballot and President Trump’s attempts to halt the overall delivery of the mail itself, the actual results may not be nationally known until weeks afterwards.

“What worries election experts the most is that all these challenges and changes could throw the result into doubt,” TIME Magazine’s Molly Ball said. “Barring a blowout, election night is likely to end without a clear winner, and it could take weeks or months to count all the votes.”

Voting at the polls

If you do choose to go out to cast your ballot, please do so at your own risk; while mail-in voting may delay the results of the election by several weeks, and though going to the polls would be reliable in terms of gaining answers, the increasing danger that comes with the pandemic is causes for discouragement within the community.

But, with mandated precautions and maintenance, including social distancing, wearing protective face coverings, and consistent sanitation, this could pose as a viable option for those uncomfortable with mail-in ballots.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything–from how the campaign is conducted to how we vote to what we value,” Ball said. “The U.S. has held elections under difficult circumstances before: wars, depressions, natural disasters. Each time, in the face of difficulty, we voted on schedule; each time, democracy gave us the opportunity to choose how we would steer out of the crisis.”

Though we may all be facing a variety of choices in preparation for this November, one message remains undoubtedly clear: make the plans, and vote.

“So if you intend to vote, it’s probably good to start thinking about the logistics you’ll need to complete now,” Rebecca Heilweil of Vox Media said. “Making those plans now will help keep them in your mind so that you do, you know, actually vote.”

Featured Photo caption: This November, we are facing a new kind of election—one that involves sending your vote through the mail.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars

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