Election Day is almost upon us and for everyone who is able, it is time to vote. Political apathy isn't cute but being too snap-happy with your ballot paper could get you in trouble. So to make sure your vote is legally counted in the US' fast-approaching 2020 election, we've broken down everything you need to know.
As the country gears up for the make-or-break presidential elections, we at Highsnobiety want to do our part to make the process as smooth as possible and have compiled all the information you need to make your voice count on November 3. While some voter registrations closed October 5, loads remain open, and you can check your state here.
The 2020 elections will take place against the backdrop of widespread protests amid a racial reckoning, a disastrous pandemic, and an ensuing economic crisis – all under the fascistic leadership of an ill-prepared Commander in Chief. However, voting is about more than choosing a president to occupy the oval office. While all the attention is on Trump vs. Biden, voters will also be choosing new members of Congress and the policies they stand for when they fill in their ballots. Needless to say, now is the most important time to stand for what you believe in.
With the barrage of headlines and news surrounding the election, it's easy to get overwhelmed or not know where to start. To get you ready to cast your vote, we've compiled an easy and simple guide on everything from registering to mail-in-voting and volunteering.
The "ballot selfie"
A record number of Americans could cast ballots by mail this election and many voters are taking to social media to show that they voted. Unfortunately, in some states taking a photo of your ballot can invalidate a vote. States historically enacted these laws to protect voters' right to a secret ballot and to discourage bribery, vote-buying, and voter coercion.
"Ballot Selfies" are still prohibited in Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
In Illinois's taking a ballot selfie is a felony punishable by 1–3 years in prison. Meanwhile, most states with anti-ballot selfie laws make the offense a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.
Who can and can't vote?
You can vote in the US presidential election if you're a US citizen and are aged 18 years or older on or before Election Day.
Some people with felony convictions are not allowed to vote. However, this varies by state, so check your state elections office to see whether a criminal record could bar you from voting.
How to register
You can simply register to vote by filling out the formula on Vote.org.
Alternatively, you can download the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can fill it out onscreen and print the completed form, or print the blank form and fill it out by hand. Remember to sign the form before mailing it to the location listed for your state.
However, if you're not currently residing in the US or are a service member stationed overseas, you can register to vote and request an absentee ballot here.
Find your polling place to see where you need to go to vote on Election Day. Your polling place is based on your residential address and you will be assigned one locally upon registering to vote. The site of your polling place may change from one election to the next, so make sure to check the location. You can do so via Can I Vote.
If you need your polling place to accommodate a disability or language barrier contact your state or territorial election office.
It's important to note that you shouldn't vote somewhere other than your assigned polling place since if you vote somewhere else you may have to cast a provisional ballot and your vote may not be counted. If you move, remember to update your address on your voter registration so you can be assigned a new polling place near your new home.
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible to vote on Election Day. But don't worry, your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. To register for early voting, you must request an absentee ballot from your state and you may be required you to submit a valid excuse too. This table shows which states require an excuse and the excuses each state will accept.
This early voting chart lists time frames for states that offer early voting.
Remember that the rules vary from state to state. If you plan to vote early or in-person absentee the best place to check is your state/territorial election office website. Check under “absentee voting” if you don’t see information listed under “voting in person” or “early voting.”
Voting by mail
Another option if you are unable to vote on Election Day is to do so via mail-in absentee ballots. This option allows eligible voters are sent a ballot that can be returned by mail, or dropped off at a voter center or similar location during the early voting period.
For information about absentee and/or early voting where you live, visit Can I Vote and select your state from the dropdown menu.
Will you have enough time to vote by mail in your state? Yes, but it’s risky to procrastinate, so check your state’s deadline.
President Trump encouraged his supporters to vote twice, once per mail and once in-person. Do Not Do That. It is a felony. If you're voting by mail, do not turn up to cast your ballot on Election day as well.
Once you've voted by mail, you can track it to make sure it actually arrives. Note your tracking number down before posting it.
Voting from abroad
If you're a military or overseas US citizen, you can register to vote and request an absentee ballot in one step via the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). To do this you need to know your voting residence, this is the address in the state you last resided in the US. Your voting residence counts even if you no longer own property in that state, you don't plan on returning to that state, or your previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.
Remember that you should submit your FPCA as soon as possible. You need to get your absentee ballot in time to return it by your state's deadline.
Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program to learn more.
Your vote is one way to make a difference in this election. Whether you're not eligible to vote or want to do more, a good way to help is to volunteer. And one of the best ways to do so is to register to become a poll worker.
To make sure that this election is the first that is fully staffed and make sure you and your fellow citizens can cast your ballots successfully, you can alternatively pledge to Work the Polls here.