Many states have expanded early in-person voting and absentee voting options to make it easier and more convenient to cast your ballot, especially due to the pandemic. Currently, 45 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer options to vote in person or by mail before Election Day. Choosing to vote early not only saves you time, it ensures you cast your ballot.
Here’s how to do that in upcoming elections.
Confirm you’re registered to vote.
Voting early still starts with making sure that you’re registered. Double-check that your address is up-to-date and correct. If it’s not, submit your voter registration or address change ASAP.
Check your eligibility for early voting.
Go to Vote.gov to find out if your state offers early voting and when the period starts. The time frame for early voting varies widely. Some states begin their early voting period just five days before Election Day, while others open early in-person voting more than a month prior.
The process also varies. Most states set up fully functioning polling places for early voters, which simply require you to show up during a certain window. No preregistration required. But in some places, early voting is limited to absentee in-person voting, where you may be required to visit a board of elections office and ask for a ballot. Jot down the details about when, where, and how to vote early where you live, as well as what identification voters are required to bring.
Find out if your state offers weekend options.
Many states keep their polling locations open on Saturdays and Sundays, allowing more people to vote conveniently on a day when they’re not working. But within a single state, the options for weekend early voting can vary based on where you live. Some states also allow county clerks to choose whether or not to allow Saturday or Sunday voting, so confirm before you go.
Check the end date.
In many states, the early voting period ends a few days before Election Day. Make sure you note when that period closes in your state, lest you get stuck standing in a long line on the big day.
Vote early by mail, if you prefer.
If you can’t or don’t want to leave your house, many states have expanded the options for absentee voting in recent years, which allows voters to mail in their ballot. The majority of states now allow no-excuse absentee voting. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington all hold 100 percent mail-in elections. Learn more in our guide to voting by mail.
Feel free to vote early in person, even if you’ve requested an absentee ballot.
If you’ve chosen to vote by mail but prefer to deliver your ballot yourself, you may fill out an absentee ballot and drop it off at an early voting location. (Almost all states allow voters to deliver their signed absentee ballots in person at their local election office too.)
Whatever your chosen method of voting, it’s best to vote as early as you can. It will prevent postal service delays—or any other unforeseen circumstances, like weather or illness—from silencing your voice.
If you’re voting in person on November 3, go prepared, take the usual COVID-19 precautions—and have patience.
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing unprecedented challenges for the 2020 elections. Find out how to vote by mail and cast your ballot safely and successfully this year.
Yes, please! By helping others to vote, you’ll be safeguarding our democracy when it needs it the most.
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