Let’s face it: voting can be confusing, especially if it’s your first time filling out a ballot. How do you register? Do you need to bring anything with you? How do you request a mail-in ballot?
No need to worry, we’re here to help! Here are five tips for first-time voters to make your experience voting go a little smoother:
1. Find out your state’s voter registration deadline
The best place to start is by checking your voter registration status. If you’re not registered, start by making sure you’re eligible as each state has its own guidelines to follow. You can learn more about those guidelines here.
After you check the guidelines, it’s time to register to vote. Each state also has its own deadline to register, so make sure to fill out the voter registration form as soon as possible. Climate Reality has teamed up with Rock the Vote to help make voting as easy as possible for everyone – you can register to vote with this easy tool!
2. Find your polling place – or find out how to request an absentee ballot
Once you’re registered, it’s time to find your polling place and learn the details of how the election will work in your town. Many polling places are open during regular business hours and stay open after 5 PM.
But don’t leave it to chance – once you’ve located your polling place, confirm the hours it’s open on November 3 (or in advance, if you’re voting early).
One of the best options that polling places provide is early voting – a period in the lead-up to Election Day, where you can avoid any lines. This is a great option to ensure those of us who have to work or go to class on Election Day will get our ballots counted without having to worry about fitting voting into the schedule!
If you’ll be out of town or unable to vote on November 3, you may be eligible to request an absentee or mail-in ballot. This year, many states are expanding mail-in voting due to COVID-19. If you’re interested in requesting an absentee ballot, you can use our tool to request one today!
Be sure to check for any deadlines! Many states have a due date for absentee ballots before election day.
3. Check if you need a photo ID to vote
Depending on where you’re voting, you may have to bring some kind of photo ID like a driver’s license or passport to be able to vote. Thirty-five states currently have some form of an in-person voter ID law, but the list of acceptable IDs varies greatly from state to state. Check here to see what your state says about what counts as identification.
College students may face some difficulties while voting, depending on where they’re registered to vote. If you’re a college student and register to vote where you go to school, make sure to double-check what forms of ID are acceptable, as some states accept student IDs issued by colleges and universities, while others do not. You can find more information here.
4. Research what’s on your ballot
Once you’ve figured out your voting plan, it’s time to vote! For the general election on November 3, you’ll be able to vote for presidential candidates and members of Congress. Depending on where you live, there could also be additional elections at the state level or even ballot measures.
Many secretary of state websites provide sample ballots beforehand, so voters can see what exactly they’ll be voting on when they go into the voting booth or receive their ballot in the mail. Lawmakers at every level have a big impact on our daily lives – make sure to do your research and use trusted information sources including large, recognizable publications, your secretary of state, and well-known research organizations like Ballotpedia.
5. Prepare in advance to vote & know your rights
Voting on Election Day could take some time, even up to a few hours. Prepare in advance as much as possible to give yourself enough time to stay in line and come prepared with anything you need, including your photo ID. (Bringing snacks and something to read are also a good idea, just in case.)
Make sure to be aware of your rights as a voter, as well. If the polls close while you’re still in line, stay in line – you have the right to vote. If you have any questions or make a mistake while voting, don’t be afraid to ask the poll workers for assistance. That’s what they’re there for.
Most importantly, if you have any issues while at your polling place (for example, if you’re told that you’re not registered but you know you are and that you’re in the right place), ask for a provisional ballot. This will record your vote while the poll workers try to figure out the issue. You can learn more about your rights as a voter with this resource from 866 Our Vote.
It’s time to vote
Now that you’ve read through our tips, it’s time to make your voice and your vote count! If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to check out our handy tool to make sure you’re prepared for November 3.
Make your vote count today and good luck with your first voting experience!
Before You Go
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