Voting 101

By McKenzie Schwark
Feature Writer

By now you’ve heard all about how important it is to get out and vote in this upcoming November’s election. But just how does one go about getting out to vote? 

Here’s everything you need to know about getting registered and getting to your polling place this November.

How to register to vote

Each state has slightly different regulations around registering to vote. Most states require prior registration in order to vote, which can be done online and requires some basic information like your name, address, and ID number. You can also register to vote in person at your local election office, DMV, Army recruitment center, or public assistance offices like SNAP. 21 states have now enacted same day registration, meaning you can show up to your polling place on election day and register to vote just before actually voting. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa all allow same day registration

The deadline to register also varies state by state, but you can check your voter registration deadline here. Good news for North Dakotan Ladybosses– North Dakota is the only state that doesn’t require prior registration in order to vote! 

How to vote by mail, or request an absentee ballot

The option to vote from home is crucial to keeping the 2020 general election safe and accessible with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Requesting an absentee ballot, or mail-in ballot, is super easy. You will just need your name, address, and contact information. Your ballot will be sent to your home to fill out at your convenience.

Officials recommend getting those ballots mailed in by October 18, 2020 at the latest to ensure your ballot makes it on time and gets counted. If you’re worried about mail service in your area, or want to absolutely triple check that your ballot makes it to the right place, you can also drop your mail-in ballot off at your local county clerk’s office, which are all equipped with secure dropoff boxes. 

How and why to vote early

Getting out to vote on election day can be a struggle. Many people aren’t able to take off work, and with a potential poll worker shortage [link to Ladyboss poll worker blog] and the anticipated long lines, voting early is a great alternative. Fewer voters tend to participate in early voting, which means you’ll spend less time waiting in line and can take your time with your ballot. The extra time and space is also helpful to make sure you can adhere to your state’s pandemic guidelines. Plenty of time to sanitize! 

You can check this calendar to see when your state opens and closes early voting, and to find your local election office.

Where do I vote?

Finding your polling place means first finding where you’re registered to vote. You can check your registration here. Once you have that information you can find your local polling place. Be careful! The closest polling place to your home may not be the one you’re set to vote at. Voting takes place at government funded places like public schools and libraries, but this year you might even be able to vote at an NBA arena. You can also contact your county clerk’s office to find your nearest polling place. 

What do I need to bring with me to vote?

36 states require some kind of identification in order to vote. Some states require a signature match in order to validate a ballot after a vote has been cast (this is not the time to test out a new John Hancock!) It never hurts to be over prepared, especially when it comes to saving our democracy! We recommend all Ladybosses take along a state issued ID card and a few pieces of official mail (like an insurance bill) with your name and address. You can check your individual state’s ID requirements here

👉 Know your voting rights.

What will be on my ballot?

Although the big choice this November is for president, each ballot will also have options regarding local issues and offices. (Those are super important too!) For personalized voting information, including what will be on your ballot, find all the information you need here!