Simply having the right to vote is often cited as a core reason why everyone should rush to the polls on election day. The privileged opportunity of electing public officials whose personal opinions and political aspirations align with yours is a luxury which, unfortunately, all peoples of the world are not offered. Even still, many question whether it is worthwhile to spend energy on a process that bears no immediate consequence. With that in mind, consider what Abraham Lincoln, the United States’ beloved 16th president, once said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” As Lincoln masterfully illustrates, a passive approach to government may force indirect consequences upon an individual regardless of their attitude. The choice is yours, but I suggest voting and making your voice heard, the world (and possibly your backside) will thank you.
Here are eight steps to help you get through the voting process:
1. Register to Vote.
Registering to vote is neither challenging nor time-consuming. On average, it only takes TWO minutes to register to vote. Visit Vote.org to see a list of voter registration deadlines by state or Vote.gov to register to vote, though it is best to practice to check your state’s election website for official deadlines and rules. Keep in mind that if you missed your state’s registration deadline, some states will still allow you to conditionally register and cast a provisional ballot in person at your county’s elections office, including election day (with the required identification.) If you missed your registration deadline, contact your state’s election information office for information on provisional ballot allowances.
2. Confirm Your Voter Registration Status.
If you’ve already registered to vote in the past, confirm your registration status. Doing so will take less than 30 seconds. In some states, failing to vote in several consecutive biennial state elections could place you on an inactive voter list. If you find they have placed you on an inactive voter list when you show up to vote, don’t panic. Depending on the state, you should still be able to cast your vote, but will need to present identification and will be required to fill out an affirmation of current and continued residence.
3. Request Your Mail-In or Absentee Ballot.
If you cannot get to your in-person poll site on election day, you should be able to request an absentee ballot from your state. State’s rules on absentee ballots vary, so be sure to check your state’s election website or contact your local election office. If you’re a college student and still registered in your home state, but want to vote from your college state, you’ll need to request an absentee ballot (alternatively you may register in your college state and vote in person, but you cannot register to vote in both states.) Keep in mind that the deadlines to vote by mail are fast approaching, and again, while all states allow absentee ballot voting, state rules on who can vote by absentee ballot vary.
4. Sign Up for Election Reminders.
Don’t miss a date or deadline and sign up for email and/or text election reminders. You can cancel at any time.
5. Find Out Who’s on Your Ballot and Familiarize Yourself with the Candidates.
Research who will be on your ballot and take the time to get to know the candidates and the issues they stand for. You may be able to receive a sample ballot from your state by contacting your local election office. You can also visit Ballot Ready to find out more information regarding who is on your ballot and additional information on the candidates.
6. Find Your Voting Poll Location.
Now that you’re registered to vote and know who you want to vote for, if you’re not voting by mail, locate your voting poll to cast your vote in person.
7. Find Your State’s Voter Requirements.
Vote 411’s interactive map will quickly tell you what identification items are required to cast your vote on election day.
Mail in your ballot, head to the polls, do whatever you need to do to vote and go VOTE! Get a sticker for voting! Our universal right to vote was once a long, hard-fought struggle. Celebrate your voting right and your choice to cast your vote in the 2020 Presidential Election!
Other Voter Resource Websites:
CNN launched a truly clear and comprehensive online voter information guide to help you vote in the 2020 presidential election. Select your state and see a full page of important voter information that includes:
- Early voting dates
- Election dates
- Voting and registration deadlines
- Election rules and voting requirements
- Links to register to vote, check your registration, find your voting poll, and request absentee ballots.
FiveThirtyEight – Voting by Mail State Map – rated by difficulty
FiveThirtyEight’s color-coded map shows how easy (or hard) it is to vote by mail in your state. Click your state from the drop-down menu and find other voting information such as voter registration deadlines, early voting dates, forms of ID required for voting, an absentee ballot application link and a link to find local ballot drop boxes.
Not sure who to vote for in the election? That’s okay, but at least try to get informed, rather than showing up to the poll and blindly selecting candidates based purely on party affiliation. Take I Side With’s quiz to see which candidates’ views and beliefs align with your own.
As a student voting in your first presidential election, you’ll probably have questions. Find all the answers to those questions here.
Find personalized voting information that includes links to your ballot, candidate info, and county debate dates and locations. Here you’ll also find voter guides and voting information by state–including links to register to vote, request your absentee ballot and state voting requirements and deadlines.
Looking for more info on how to register to vote and what the deadlines are in your state? Check out our guide on how to register to vote.