7 Steps to Prepare for Election Day 2020
It's your first election and you're excited to vote. But no one—except of course the underdog candidate—wants an upset on Election Day. A tiny bit of prep—from checking that you're really registered to familiarizing yourself with the ballot—will ensure you're ready to roll when you go to the polls. Use these tips:
Make sure you're registered to vote. If you've moved recently, or you aren't sure whether you're registered, it's best to check. In 38 states plus Washington, D.C., you can do this online. Be mindful of deadlines: Some states let you register up to Election Day, but others require early registration.
- Find online voter registration for your state here.
- You can also use the website vote.gov to find the specific instructions for your state.
- You can sign up for voter registration reminders by email here.
- Download the VoterPal app, available in English and Spanish to easily register yourself or help a friend.
Register with a political party if you want to vote in its primary. The rules for voting in presidential primaries vary from state to state. In "closed primary" states, you have to register with a political party to vote in its primary. In other states, you can vote for anyone in the primary, regardless of whether you're registered with a political party.
- Use this map to find your state and see what type of primary it has, plus check for specific requirements in your state.
- Your safest bet, if you want to vote in a specific party's primary, is to choose that party in your voter registration.
Get what you need to bring to the polls. Some states allow you to vote without an ID, but others require you to bring specific forms of identification with you.
- Check this list to see what's required in your state.
- If you have problems at the polling place, you can call the Election Protection coalition for guidance at 866-OUR-VOTE.
Consider early voting or vote by mail. This is a good way to avoid lines on Election Day. Four states—Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Hawaii—conduct all their elections completely by mail, and many other states open their polling places well before Election Day, or offer mail-in ballots as an option.
- Find out if your state offers early voting here.
- Check this list to find out whether you can get a mail ballot in your state.
- Some states also offer voting online or using an app -- find out if that applies to you here.
Find your polling place. Polling places can sometimes be in obscure spots and may move from year to year, so be sure you know where you're actually headed on Election Day.
- You can look up your polling place here.
- If you need a ride to the polls, try Carpool Vote. Rideshare services Uber and Lyft also offer free or discounted trips for voters who need them.
Know what kind of voting machine you'll encounter. Voting machines can vary a lot, but they're generally very easy to use. It doesn't hurt to familiarize yourself with the mechanics before the big day.
- Use this list as a guide to every type of voting machine by state, plus links to your state's Board of Elections website so you can check for the most up-to-date information.
Get a sample ballot. Before you head to the polls, it's a good idea to get a sample ballot so you know in advance all the races you'll be voting on. There are often lots of smaller races for local offices, judges, or propositions that could have an immediate impact on your life but don't get as much news coverage. If you have a sample ballot in advance, you can do research on all these races, even marking down how you want to vote, and then show up at the polls prepared to make your decisions.
- Go to your state's election guide website to find out if it offers sample ballots.
- Ballotpedia and Vote411 also have tools to help you find your own local sample ballot.
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