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September 15, 2020
Everything You Need to Know About Voting in the 2020 Elections

BY ANNE CRUZ

Photo: Getty Images 

For American citizens, exercising the right to vote is a fundamental part of our democratic process. Most of the attention this November will be focused on the presidential race, but local elections are also crucial for shaping the policies and government in your community

 Requirements for voting can sometimes be confusing, but making sure you’re registered and prepared to vote ensures your voice is heard on Election Day. We’ve compiled a guide to make it easier to understand what you need to know before you cast your ballot.

 Who can vote?

To vote in any federal, state or local elections in the United States, you must be a U.S. citizen. Permanent legal residents who are not citizens cannot vote.  You must establish residency in your state, be 18 years old by or on Election Day, and be registered to vote by your state’s registration deadline (except for those in North Dakota). Establishing residency varies state to state. 

Those experiencing homelessness can still vote, but they may be required by their state to provide a mailing address or government-issued ID.  For an extensive list of voting requirements by state, vote.org has a comprehensive guide here. Those who have been convicted of a felony may be able to vote or restore their right to vote and should check their eligibility here. Some states may also require voters to bring a photo ID with them to the polls. 

 How can I check my status?

If you’re not sure if you’ve already registered to vote, you can check your voter registration state by state here.  

 How do I register? 

You can easily register to vote online in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

Residents in the following states must register by mail or in-person: Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. You can find voter registration applications to print or request for an application to be mailed to you through vote.org.

Can I mail in my vote?

Mail-in, or absentee, voting is typically used for when a voter will not be physically present in their voting district on their election day. This year, some people may also wish to vote by mail to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission in their communities. 

Several states are conducting their elections this year primarily by mail, which means all registered voters will be mailed a ballot, and voters in 35 states do not need a reason to request a mail-in ballot. Voters in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas must provide an acceptable reason for why they cannot vote in-person to receive a mail-in ballot. If you’re already registered to vote and would like to apply for an absentee ballot, you can do so here

How early should I mail in my vote? 

Some states require your mail-in ballot to be received by or on Election Day, while others merely need your vote to be postmarked by Election Day. If your ballot needs to be received by Election Day, the USPS suggests sending it out at least 7 days in advance to ensure it arrives on time. 

You can also submit an absentee ballot in-person at your local election office or polling place. Rules for submitting an absentee ballot in-person depend on your state & municipality. 

Early Voting

Election Day this year is November 3, but many Americans can cast their vote before then. Early voting can empower Americans who’d like to vote in-person, but might have work or circumstances that prevent them from voting on Election Day itself. By voting early, you also can help alleviate crowds or lines that form on Election Day.

How do I volunteer to be a poll worker? Why is this important?

Poll workers help ensure that voters submit their ballots properly and smoothly. Having enough poll workers also decreases the chance that voters will have to wait in long lines to cast their vote. In recent years, districts have found it difficult to recruit enough volunteers, and this deficit of poll workers will likely be affected by Covid-19, since a majority of volunteers are typically over 60 and at risk

The process and requirements for becoming a poll worker vary from state to state. The best way to find out more information and sign up is to contact your local election office

Voter registration deadlines, mail-in voting deadlines, and more by state:

Alabama

  • Register in person: 10/19

  • Register by Mail: 10/19

  • Register online: 10/19

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/29

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/2, Hand delivered 11/2 5:00 p.m., received 11/3 12:00 p.m.

Alaska

  • Register in person: 10/4

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/3

  • Register online: 10/4

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/26, online/fax 11/2 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, hand delivered 11/3, received 11/13

Arizona

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/5

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/23 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Received 11/3 5:00 p.m.

Arkansas

  • Register in person: 10/4

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Postmarked 10/27, e-mail 10/27, in person 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: In person received 11/2, post received 11/3 7:30 p.m.

California

  • Register in person: 10/19

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/19

  • Register online: 10/19

  • Election Day registration: Yes, provisional ballot

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/27

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, hand delivered 11/3, received 11/20

Colorado

  • Register in person: Election Day 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/26

  • Register online: 10/26

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/26

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 7:00 p.m.

Connecticut

  • Register in person: 10/27

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/27

  • Register online: 10/27

  • Election Day registration: Yes, at designated Election Day Registration office

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: Hand delivered 11/2, post received 11/3, fax 11/3

Delaware

  • Register in person: 10/10

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/10

  • Register online: 10/10

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2 12:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8 p.m.

Washington, DC

  • Register in person: Election Day

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/13

  • Register online: 10/13

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Florida

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/5

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/24 5:00pm, hand delivered 10/31

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 7:00 p.m.

Georgia

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/5

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/30

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

Hawaii

  • Register in person: 10/4

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/4

  • Register online: 10/4

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

Idaho

  • Register in person: 10/10

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/9

  • Register online: 10/10

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/23 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Illinois

  • Register in person: 10/7

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/6

  • Register online: 10/18

  • Election Day registration: Yes, at Local Election Office, not regular polling place

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/29, in person 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, received 11/17

Indiana

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/5

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Postal 10/22 11:59 p.m., in person 11/2 12:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 12:00 p.m.

Iowa

  • Register in person: 10/24

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/19, or received 10/24

  • Register online: 10/24

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/30

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 9:00 p.m.

Kansas

  • Register in person: 10/13

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/13

  • Register online: 10/13

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, received 11/6

Kentucky

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/5

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/9

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3 6:00 p.m., received 11/6 6:00 p.m.

Louisiana

  • Register in person: 10/4

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/4

  • Register online: 10/14

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/30 4:30 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/2 4:30 p.m.

Maine

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/13

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/31

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Maryland

  • Register in person: 10/13

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/13

  • Register online: 10/13

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Postal 10/27 8:00 p.m., online 10/30 5:00 p.m., in person 11/3 8:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, received 11/13 10:00 a.m.

Massachusetts

  • Register in person: 10/14

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/14

  • Register online: 10/14

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/28 12:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Michigan

  • Register in person: 10/19

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/19

  • Register online: 10/19

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/30 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Minnesota

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/13

  • Register online: 10/13

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, in person 11/3 3:00 p.m., post received 11/10

Mississippi

  • Register in person: 10/4

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/4

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/5 

  • Absentee voting deadline: In person 10/31, post received 11/2 5:00 p.m.

Missouri

  • Register in person: 10/7

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/7

  • Register online: 10/7

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/21 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 7:00 p.m.

Montana

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/4, or received 10/7

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2 12:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Nebraska

  • Register in person: 10/23

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/16, or received 10/20

  • Register online: 10/16

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/23

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Nevada

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/6

  • Register online: 10/29

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/20

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 7:00 p.m.

New Hampshire

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/21-28, town dependent

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: In person 11/2 5:00 p.m., post received 11/3 5:00 p.m.

New Jersey

  • Register in person: 10/13

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/13

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Post received 10/27, in person 11/2 3:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3 8:00 p.m., in person 11/3 8:00 p.m., post received 11/5 8:00 p.m.

New Mexico

  • Register in person: 10/31 at County Clerk’s Office, 10/6 otherwise

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/6

  • Register online: 10/6

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Online 10/20 5:00 p.m., in person 10/20 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

New York

  • Register in person: 10/9

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/9, or received 10/14

  • Register online: 10/9

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Postmarked 10/27, in person 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/3, in person 11/4, post received 11/10

North Carolina

  • Register in person: 10/31 if voting in person, otherwise 10/9

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/9, or received 10/14

  • Register online: 10/9

  • Election Day registration: Yes, if eligibility changes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

North Dakota

  • North Dakota does not require voter registration.

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/2

Ohio

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/4

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Received 10/31 12:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Postmarked 11/2, in person 11/3 7:30 p.m., post received 11/13

Oklahoma

  • Register in person: 10/9

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/9

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

Oregon

  • Register in person: 10/13

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/13

  • Register online: 10/13

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/29

  • Absentee voting deadline: Received 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Pennsylvania

  • Register in person: 10/19

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/19

  • Register online: 10/19

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Rhode Island

  • Register in person: 10/4

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/4, received 10/9

  • Register online: 10/4

  • Election Day registration: Yes, only for Presidential Elections

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/13 4:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

South Carolina

  • Register in person: 10/4 (Sunday, so last previous day the county board is open)

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/5 

  • Register online: 10/4

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/30 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Received 11/3 7:00 p.m.

South Dakota

  • Register in person: 10/19

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/19

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Received 11/3 7:00 p.m.

Tennessee

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/4

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/27

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Texas

  • Register in person: 10/5

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Post received 10/23

  • Absentee voting deadline: In person 11/3 7:00 p.m., postmarked 11/3 7:00 p.m., post received 11/4 5:00 p.m.

Utah

  • Register in person: 10/27

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/5

  • Register online: 10/27

  • Election Day registration: Yes, provisional ballot

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/28

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

Vermont

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Received 11/3

  • Register online: 11/3

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

Virginia

  • Register in person: 10/12

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/12

  • Register online: 10/12

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Postal request 10/23 5:00 p.m.,in person 10/31 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Received 11/3 7:00pm

Washington

  • Register in person: 11/3

  • Register by Mail: Received 10/26

  • Register online: 10/26

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/26

  • Absentee voting deadline: 11/3

West Virginia

  • Register in person: 10/13

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/13

  • Register online: 10/13

  • Election Day registration: No

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: 10/28

  • Absentee voting deadline: Hand delivered 11/2, postmarked 11/3, post received 11/9

Wisconsin

  • Register in person: 10/30

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/14

  • Register online: 10/14

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: Postal ballot 10/29 5:00 p.m., in person 10/30

  • US based military 10/30 5:00 p.m.

  • Indefinitely confined voters 10/30 5:00 p.m.

  • Absentee voting deadline: Received 11/3 8:00 p.m.

Wyoming

  • Register in person: 10/20

  • Register by Mail: Postmarked 10/20

  • Register online: No

  • Election Day registration: Yes

  • Absentee Ballot request deadline: In person 11/2

  • Absentee voting deadline: Post received 11/3 7:00 p.m., in person 11/3 7:00 p.m.

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