Voting in a national election is a bit more confusing than it was in high school, even if the stakes aren’t as high. (We might not have run for Jealous Runner-Up, but we had way more fun at prom than that boring Queen.) To reassure yourself and the rest of the world that democracy kind of works, make sure you take the time and make the effort to get your vote counted this election. Here’s how.
Already registered to vote? Vote by mail — now!
Seriously, do it now if you can. This election is going to be decided in the days and weeks after Tuesday, November 3, but you don’t have to wait to do your part.
By voting by mail, you’ll be freeing up the in-person polls for those folks who need them, hopefully cutting down on wait times and the chances they’ll catch COVID-19. Read the basics below then check Time’s guide for info on each state’s policies and deadlines. Yes, time still exists. Who knew?
What Am I Voting For?
In the November 2020 general election, you will have the opportunity to vote on:
- The President (4-year term)
- Your Representative to the US House (2-year term)
You may also have opportunities to vote on:
- US Senator(s) (6-year term)
- State Legislator(s) (2-to-4-year terms)
- State and local laws and propositions
- State and municipal officers including sheriffs, district attorneys, judges, mayors, and city council members
How to Register to Vote
The first step to voting is to register to vote. If you are 18 or older and a citizen of the United States by November 3, 2020, you are eligible to vote in the general election.
In some states, like California and Oregon, you are automatically registered to vote when you make any changes at the DMV. In other states, you need to register a month before the election you wish to vote in, which — whoops. Well, there’s always next time.
Regardless, it is critical to register to vote as soon as possible because each state has different voter registration deadlines. But it’s almost easier than boiling water.
Here are the steps to register:
- Check your voter registration – Check to see if you are registered to vote.
- Register to vote – Registering to vote only takes a couple of minutes.
How to Vote in the General Election (Tuesday, November 3, 2020)
You registered to vote by your state’s deadline. Now what?
You can vote:
- In person at your polling place
- By absentee ballot
- By mail-in ballot
Important annoying reminder: Make sure that your signature matches your signature on file with the state. Check the signature on your license if you registered online or at the DMV. Your ballot can be tossed and will not count if your signatures do not match.
How to Vote In Person
You can vote in person on Election Day, November 3rd, or in many states, weeks beforehand! If you want to vote in-person, voting early will reduce the line on Election Day and it’ll likely be a lot faster for you too.
Early In-Person Voting Opens by State:
- Alaska: October 19
- Arizona: October 8
- Arkansas: October 19
- California: October 5
- Colorado: October 19
- Florida: October 24
- Georgia: October 12
- Hawaii: October 24
- Idaho: October 19
- Illinois: September 24 – October 19
- Indiana: October 6 – November 2
- Iowa: October 5 – November 2
- Kansas: October 14
- Kentucky: October 13
- Louisiana: October 20-27
- Maine: October 4-29
- Maryland: October 26 – November 2
- Massachusetts: October 17-30
- Minnesota: September 18
- Montana: October 4
- Nebraska: October 5
- Nevada: October 17-30
- New Jersey: September 19
- New Mexico: October 17-31
- New York: October 24 – November 3
- North Carolina: October 15-31
- North Dakota: October 19
- Ohio: October 6 – November 2
- Oklahoma: October 29
- Rhode Island: October 14
- South Dakota: September 18
- Tennessee: October 14-29
- Texas: October 13
- Utah: October 20
- Vermont: September 19
- Virginia: September 18
- Washington (State): October 26
- Washington D.C.: October 28 – November 3
- West Virginia: October 21-31
- Wisconsin: October 20
- Wyoming: September 18
How to Vote by Absentee or Mail-In Ballot
If you choose to vote absentee, request and send your completed ballot as soon as possible. But do it quickly: absentee ballots need to be mailed in by October 25. Request your absentee ballot here.
There are five states that conduct their elections through a mail-in process called “all-mail voting.” These are: Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, and Utah. In response to COVID-19, at least four additional states — California, Nevada, New Jersey and Vermont—and the District of Columbia have pledged to mail ballots for this election, too.
Registered voters in these states should receive mail ballots at their registered addresses before Election Day. Ballots can be mailed back, submitted at a voting location, or deposited at a dropbox by a designated time on or before Election Day. Like a real dropbox. Not the company one where you’ve been also storing all your personal photos.
You can return your completed absentee or mail-in ballot three different ways:
- Mail – postage is prepaid.
- Courier – Return your completed ballot via a commercial delivery service at your expense, such as FedEx or UPS.
- In-Person – You can drop off your completed mail-in ballot in person at a local elections office, dropbox, early voting location, or polling place.
Mail-In Voting Deadline by State
Depending on your state, if you’re voting via mail-in, your ballot has to be postmarked or received by a certain date. Check the list below, vote, and then send it in ASAP so you don’t miss the deadline.
- Alabama: Received November 3, 12 pm
- Alaska: Postmarked by November 3
- Arizona: Received November 3, 7 pm
- Arkansas: Received November 3, 7:30 pm
- California: Postmarked by November 3
- Colorado: Received November 3, 7 pm
- Connecticut: Postmarked by November 3
- Delaware: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Florida: Received November 3, 7 pm
- Georgia: Received November 3
- Hawaii: Received November 3
- Idaho: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Illinois: Postmarked by November 3
- Indiana: Received November 3, 12 pm
- Iowa: Received November 3, close of polls
- Kansas: Postmarked by November 3
- Kentucky: Received November 3, 6 pm
- Louisiana: Received November 2, 4:30 pm
- Maine: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Maryland: Postmarked by November 3
- Massachusetts: Postmarked by November 3
- Michigan: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Minnesota: Received November 3
- Mississippi: Postmarked by November 3
- Missouri: Received November 3, close of polls
- Montana: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Nebraska: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Nevada: Postmarked by November 3
- New Hampshire: Postmarked by November 3, 5 pm
- New Jersey: Postmarked by November 3
- New Mexico: Received November 3, 7 pm
- New York: Postmarked by November 3
- North Carolina: Postmarked November 3, 5 pm
- North Dakota: Postmarked by November 2
- Ohio: Postmarked by November 2
- Oklahoma: Received November 3, 7 pm
- Rhode Island: Received November 3, 8 pm
- South Carolina: Received November 3, 7 pm
- South Dakota: Received November 3, close of polls
- Tennessee: Received November 3, close of polls
- Texas: Postmarked November 3, 7 pm
- Utah: Received November 3
- Vermont: Received November 3, 7 pm
- Virginia: Postmarked November 3, 7 pm
- Washington (State): Postmarked November 3
- Washington D.C.: Postmarked November 3
- West Virginia: Postmarked November 3
- Wisconsin: Received November 3, 8 pm
- Wyoming: Received November 3, 7 pm
How to Volunteer on Election Day
Due to COVID-19, there is a critical lack of poll workers. While many states are increasing their mail-in and absentee voting options, most Americans will opt for in-person voting to cast a ballot this Election Day. If you want to get more involved on Election Day, you can volunteer as a volunteer as a poll worker.