Each state has its own laws governing how, when, and where people can vote – and how they can register to vote in the first place. Many states and cities changed their voting processes due to the coronavirus, particularly concerning mail-in ballots, early voting and polling locations. Many Republican-led states, despite the increased voter participation (on both sides) that these changes brought about, have now backtracked on most or all of them, making it in some cases more difficult to vote now than it was before the pandemic. To make sure your vote counts, get up-to-date information (see below) about voting in your state, and make a careful plan to vote.
State and local information
To find state and local information such as dates for mail-in ballots and early voting, local election contact information, how to volunteer at the polls, or locations where you can vote, go to this site and select your state: https://www.usa.gov/election-office.
Your voting plan
- Make sure you are registered to vote and that your registration is up to date. Contact your city hall or town clerk if you have questions.
- Decide on your method for voting. Most states allow three ways: by mail or drop box; in person during early voting; or in person on election day.
- Find out your state’s dates, deadlines and locations for your chosen method.
Due to the high volume of ballots that are expected to be mailed, it is probably wise to deposit ballots at a designated drop box or to mail ballots as soon as possible, to make sure they arrive on time. (Or plan to vote in person on Election Day – and likely wait in line, so get there early.) In some states, it is possible to check to see that your ballot has been processed properly so you can straighten out any problem.
These general sites will answer most questions about voting, such as how to register or how to request a ballot.
Specific questions and hotline
These resources may be helpful for specific questions or if you run into problems trying to register or vote:
- 1-844-USA-GOV1 (1-844-872-4681). The usa.gov site also includes a link for chatting online with a representative.
- https://fairfight.com/fair-fight-2020/ or 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
- Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA
- Arabic/English: 844-YALLA-US
- Asian Languages/English: 888-API-VOTE
- Election protection hotline: 1-866-667-8683
- If you are homeless: https://www.nonprofitvote.org/voting-in-your-state/special-circumstances/voting-and-homelessness/
Common mistakes that can disqualify ballots
This resource can help. Common mistakes include:
- Improperly filling in the ballot, such as by having stray marks or coffee circles on it, or by not filling the ovals in all the way
- Forgetting to sign the envelope
- Using a signature that differs from the one on file. You can fix this, but check with your local elections office to find out how.
- Not including required documentation. Some states require things like witness signatures or copies of photo id.
- Sending the ballot in too late.