I know it’s not quite Halloween and lots of folks are strategizing their best trick-or-treat routes; or maybe you’re strategizing to stay home and hit the stores Sunday to score that sweet, sweet clearance candy. These are all valid uses of brain power, but I need to ask you to flex the think-y parts of your mind a tiny bit more — what is your voting strategy?
As of October 29, 2020 over one third of registered voters have cast their vote either by early voting or mail-in/absentee ballot. That is almost half the number of total ballots cast in the 2016 election with less than a week left before Election Day. In 2016, only 55.5% of the Voting Age Population showed up to the polls. So mathematically, that means somewhere around only 28% of Americans over the age of 18 cast their vote for the man who now resides in the White House. Regardless of how you feel about the current POTUS, that’s just depressing.
The more people vote, the more our government reflects the will of the governed. Early voting has begun in thousands of precincts throughout 38 states. If you aren’t sure if your state offers early voting, you can check out if you can vote early here. Local Voter’s Registration or Secretary of State offices should be able to provide early voting locations.
If you are one of the millions who chose to vote by mail, please be sure to carefully read the instructions included with your ballot and follow them exactly. Pay attention to whether you need to use pen (and what color) or pencil. Make sure to check for multiple signatures which might be required on your ballot as well as on the privacy envelope(s) in which you return your ballot. Some states require a witness to sign the ballot or envelope. Take your time and utilize a check list if you’re easily distracted (like me). Some states allow absentee ballots to be placed in drop boxes - after recent changes in the US Postal Service some folks have been worried about the safety of returning their ballot by mail - be sure that if you use a drop box it is an official drop box; there have been reports of unofficial ballot boxes placed in battleground states. A week out from the election, both Republican and Democratic Party leaders have begun urging voters who chose absentee/mail-in who have not yet mailed in their ballot to avoid returning their ballot by mail and to place their ballot in an official drop box.
If you are a first-time voter, like my oldest son, you may be looking forward to voting in person on Election Day; you may have other reasons to prefer in-person voting. Regardless of the reason you’ve chosen to vote at the polls on November 3, be sure you are prepared to wait in line for an extended period of time. Some states have limited the number of locations due to limited availability of poll workers due to the corona virus. Wear comfortable shoes or bring a light and easily movable chair (think: collapsible camp chair), bring a snack, something to drink (but not too much - there might not be restrooms available to people waiting outside the polling place), and something to keep you occupied - of course, I’d recommend that book you’ve been meaning to start or finish. As much as you might be tempted to wear a t-shirt to proudly support your political alliance, most states prohibit any display of political cause or candidate at the polling place - so save the 8645 shirt or MAGA hat for your election night selfie. If you haven’t already checked your voter registration yet, you can do so here. If there is a problem with your registration, you might have time to fix it before Tuesday, depending on your state’s laws; but if not, you can ask if you can cast a provisional ballot. When you are at your polling place, if you experience problems that might prevent you from voting or voting how you intended, first ask a poll worker for help. If your problem is not resolved and you feel your right to vote is being hampered you can call either 1-866-687-8683 (OUR VOTE) or 1-800-253-3931; you can also text REPORT to 62571 with a brief description of your experience to report voter suppression.
If you haven’t voted already, I hope this information is helpful. If you have voted already - thank you.
Unfortunately, not everyone will be happy with the results of the election when all the votes have been cast and counted; but we can all be proud that we’ve done our part.