Voting Guide

Election Day is a ways away, but voting is already underway in several states. To help you vote during this unusual year we have put together a step-by-step guide. 

Register. 

Check your registration status through a national group of state officials or at Vote.org. If you aren’t registered, move quickly. The earliest deadlines, including in Florida and Arizona, are less than two weeks away. In 40 states, voters can register online. In others, like New Hampshire, you’ll have to mail in a form or submit it in person. 

You can also use a one-stop hub from the group When We All Vote, which lets you enter your address and then offers information on how to register and vote.

 

Vote by mail. 

Most states have loosened their rules during the pandemic, but they differ by state. In many places, you must first fill out an online form requesting a mail-in ballot.

You should pay careful attention to your state’s rules for returning a ballot. In New Hampshire, for example, your original, non-digital signature must be included if submitting the form by mail or in person; if faxing or emailing the application, a scanned signature is sufficient. In Vermont, during COVID-19, all registered voters will receive absentee ballots automatically without needing to request them. Ignore these rules, and your vote may be thrown out.  

To meet your state’s deadline for mail-in ballots, the safest bet is to vote as soon as you know which candidates you support. If you live in one of the many states with drop-off locations, you may want to visit one of them rather than mailing in the ballot. Most states will also let you track the status of completed mail ballots.

 

Or vote in person. 

Voting in person during the pandemic appears to be about as safe as going to the grocery store — low risk but not no risk. Many states are taking measures, like spacing out voting booths, to increase safety. You should also wear a mask and stay at least six feet from others. 

In most states, you can vote early even if you’re voting in person.

 

Make a plan.

Social-science research has found that people who make a specific voting plan — exactly when and where they will vote — are more likely to do so than people who vaguely promise themselves that they will. 

Once you’ve made that plan, tell others about it, in person, or in your social-media feed. The announcement will help you stick to the plan and encourage others to do the same. You can also use a platform like Outvote to encourage your friends and relatives to vote, via text messages and social media.