How to Register to Vote by Mail or In Person


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Photo: LPETTET (Getty Images)

It’s National Voter Registration Day, and there’s only one way to celebrate. I bet you can guess what it is—and no, it’s not with a stiff drink, though thinking about Nov. 3, 2020 fills me with anxiety, too. Friends, the only way to celebrate this hashtag holiday is by registering to vote. Or by double-checking that you are registered to vote. Or by reminding everyone you know to register to vote. Or, having registered, by planning how you are going to vote. OK, so I guess that’s four ways to celebrate—but we can help you do them all.

How to register to vote or check your status

If you haven’t done it yet, registering to vote is your first essential step. Luckily, doing so is pretty easy, whether you need to register for the very first time or simply confirm that your existing registration is still valid. There are multiple ways to register to vote online; the easiest is to visit vote.gov and select your state of residence from the drop-down menus to get started. You can also register via tools offered by multiple social media platforms—which also make it easy to share your registration status on your profile as a way to encourage others to register, too.

While you are registering, you may be presented with the option to register to vote by mail if the service is freely available in your state—and, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is now available in most of them. (If you live in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington or Utah, voting is 100% by mail.)

Speaking of the pandemic, if you are currently staying outside of your home state, you’ll want to check the latter’s absentee voting rules to make sure you can cast your vote without having to return to your local polling station.

If you’re pretty sure you’ve already registered to vote but want to avoid any surprises on Election Day, double-check that you are registered to vote. A quick way is to use vote.gov and navigate to the appropriate resources for your state that will help you check your registration status—though we have also collected some of those resources here.

How to make sure your vote is counted

It’s been several weeks—and more than a few national crises—since we were all talking about the politicization of the United States Postal Service in the run-up to an election that will likely feature an unprecedented number of people voting by mail. You’re excused if you’ve forgotten that it is one of many things you’re supposed to be stressed out about.

Nevertheless, if you are planning to vote by mail, you’ll want to do all you can to make sure your vote counts—whether that means submitting your mail-in ballot without using the USPS or taking extra care to ensure you mail-in ballot isn’t rejected.

If you want to vote in person but would like to avoid the crowds on Nov. 3, check to see if your state offers early voting—in some states you can vote up to 45 days before the election, a threshold we’ve already crossed. If you’re planning to vote in person on Election Day, start by finding your local polling place using vote.gov, then review our list of recommendations on voting safely in person during a pandemic.

Get fired up, and volunteer if you can

It probably goes without saying that this is one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime, but if you need a reminder of why voting is so important—whether to give yourself a morale boost or help galvanize others and get out the vote—Amazon is making the documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy free to stream today. Focused on Stacey Abrams’ 2018 run against Brian Kemp for the governorship of Georgia, the film delves into the ugly history of voter suppression in the U.S.

If you want to do your part to make sure things run as smoothly as possible come Election Day (and help democracy survive to see another one of them) you can sign up to work the polls. If you want to instill a sense of civic duty into your children, you can even encourage your teen to do the same—and for pay.

If you still have questions, take a look at our list of everything you need to know to vote in 2020. See you at the polls! (I mean, you won’t see me there, because I’m voting by mail.)



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