By Olivia Montes
With November less than two months away, voters are striving to prepare for one of the most unusual presidential elections of the decade.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread throughout the nation, a majority of eligible voters, both old and new, are wondering how exactly they will be able to cast their ballots for the presidential election — or how they will know their votes are even counted.
“The collision between the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 elections means that voting is a far more complicated exercise this year,” The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips said this past August.
“Election experts and officials are urging voters to get their ballots in early to make sure they get counted, and are worried that disinformation about how to vote…could confuse the process even more,” she said.
However, it doesn’t have to be complicated; with voting by mail, absentee ballot, or go straight to the polls, there are plenty of options to choose from.
But no matter what choice you go with, the key is to make sure you have prepared a plan prior to Election Day.
Here are three important tips to make sure you can cast a ballot this election.
Check for registration.
Whether you have been participating in every election, periodically, or have just reached the eligible age, it’s important to make sure that you are still able to vote, and that your respective state recognizes this in time for November.
“This is something you would have to do even if there weren’t a pandemic,” Phillips said. “If you know which party you want to vote for, your local Republican or Democratic or third party will help you register.”
This step is crucial; make sure to check your local election or state websites, such as the usa.govor the usvotefoundation.org, to check that you have been properly registered or if you need to make the proper updates to match your current voting status.
“Even if you think you are [registered], you can double-check and make sure your information is up to date,” Vox Media’s Jen Kirby said this August. “[The point here is] make sure you can vote.”
Check for updates prior to Election Day.
Due to the primary elections having been delayed as a combined result of late deliveries and other voting errors, the country has been adjusting to check each vote, whether in person or by mail, is counted for this upcoming election.
And, as well as the remaining health risks, it is important to remember that any of the rules enacted by each individual state regarding when and how to vote are still liable to change, so be sure to pay attention to last-minute alterations.
“Concerns over public health have prompted dozens of states to change their election laws and procedures to make it easier to vote before Election Day, [but] not every state has followed suite,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich said in August. “It [could be] dizzying enough to keep up with all of the changes and deadlines in your state.”
In addition, keep in mind that not every state will enact the same deadlines or primary voting options, or that each region will produce a smooth, steady system for voting during these unusual times; depending on where you are, it’s vital to follow the ever changing agenda that accompanies your respective state to make sure that you are able to cast a ballot — and cast it on time.
“There is no uniform national schedule for when to send out ballots; each state sets its own timeline,” Phillips added. “Some states mail out a ballot as early as 45 days before the election, some less than a month before.”
Decide how to vote — and when to do it.
With different voting options available in many states, citizens can choose which way to vote works best for them.
Prior to November, be sure to also re-examine the pro’s and con’s of mail-in and in-person voting available within your respective state, including deadlines to request and submit mail-in or absentee ballots and which polling locations will be available on Election Day.
With this in mind, it is also important to keep an eye out during each stage of the voting process, from checking the rules of each state to filling out the ballot itself.
For voting in person, be sure to check for where polling places are and which safety protocols are being enacted. It is also recommended to vote early to avoid long lines.
“Polling locations around the country are likely going to implement social distancing measures and will likely require personal protective equipment for poll workers,” Kirby said. “Expect lots of disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and even extra pens.”
On the other hand, if you’re voting by mail, be sure to review the deadlines, read — and reread — the instructions provided, and sign up to track your ballot’s delivery, which allows you to see where your vote goes and send alerts if something unexpected happens along the way.
Whatever you decide, expect results to be delayed; not every vote will be gathered in time to announce the winner on Election Day, so be prepared to wait.
“Instead of learning who won on election night, we’ll likely have to wait days — or in some states, weeks — for full results, as the counting of mail ballots proceeds at a much slower pace than we are accustomed to,” Rakich said. “There’s a very real chance that we won’t know the winner of the election on election night, or even the day after.”
While voting this year may sound complex and off-putting to some, considering that COVID-19 pandemic is still posing a high national threat, it doesn’t have to be. Planning ahead of time on when and where to submit your vote not only lessens the amount of stress that comes with this election, but also allows you to be adaptable in any kind of future elections.
And remember, regardless of how we conduct this election, it is important to be diligent about how to cast your ballot will help make the right decision for you on how to vote.
“Voting in the middle of a pandemic was always going to look different,” Kirby said. “[But] planning and voting early offers you more confidence that your vote counted, and the more people who do that, the more likely other voters participate in — and poll workers and election officials manage — a much more efficient and fair election for everyone. And everyone can be a little more confident that their vote counted.”
Featured Photo caption: While these are unusual times to hold an election, voters should make sure to make their ballots count this November. Photo Courtesy of Morning Brew.