(Note: Taking photos of the OUTSIDE of your ballot is OK, but it’s illegal in many states to photograph and share a photo of your completed ballot. Here is an updated list of state guidelines.) Find my VOTE stickers here (still a few tees left in stock too!) and my Amazon Wubby Fleece here!
Alright, we know the importance of voting. And we know it’s easy to pick which candidate you’re voting for when it comes to the presidency. But what about your local candidates?
Choosing the right local candidates can impact your everyday life often even more than the presidency. But when you’re trying to decide who to mark down for, say, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board–things can get muddy real quick, know what I mean?
Well, Vote Save America just launched a one-stop shop to make researching your ballot AND submitting your ballot as easy as ever. It’s so great, I thought it deserved its own blog post–so here it is!
How to research who is on your ballot, find how and where to vote, and more!
How to research who and what is on your ballot:
Here’s how it works: Click here, and enter the address where you’re registered to vote, hit enter, and the tool will show you the exact races and ballot measures you’ll be voting on AND give you more information about all of them. The tool aggregates information from candidate websites, social media, endorsers, and boards of election to help you cast an informed vote. (FYI–for those familiar with Ballotready, I’m pretty sure this is the same thing. I just like that VSA’s hub is a one-stop shop!)
The best part? You can “add” your chosen candidates to your “ballot,” and print it or email it to yourself to take with you into the voting booth! You’ll be in and out of there in two seconds. (Note: make sure to research whether or not you’re allowed to bring your phone with you to vote. I was allowed to do so in the primaries in Chicago but other states might vary! Maybe best to print it out to be safe?)
Even if your candidate options don’t excite you, there are some super important issues on the ballot in many states too. For example, laws on recreational marijuana use, consumer protection from predatory payday lender fees, overturning bans on affirmative action policies, abortion funding–and more!
I like that it breaks down the ballot measures in easy ways to understand.
A note on judges:
In my case, the tool brings up all the judges on the ballot and whether or not they are rated qualified or not qualified by various bar associations. But it doesn’t totally give you the full picture.
If you want to do more in-depth research, I can only recommend Chicago resources. (I’m not sure about others, I’m sure a google search would help though!) BBut a great website is Injustice Watch, which has a super helpful guide in highlighting important factors, like whether or not a judge has had a past controversy, if the judge has been a public defender or former state’s attorney, has negative ratings, and more! This can make it quick and easy to make an informed decision.
Hooray! You built your ballot! Here’s what to do next:
Once you’ve completed your “ballot,” (note it’s not your ACTUAL ballot, it’s just to reference!) pop in your address on this page, and it will ask you whether you’d like to vote in person (if so, what date) or vote by mail (if so, are you mailing your ballot, or dropping it off?) It also shows you important deadlines based on your state. And gives you the opportunity to request an absentee ballot if your state’s deadline hasn’t already passed.
Based on the info you enter, it will send you a map of locations closest to you where you can vote early or drop off your ballot!
Fun fact: In Illinois, you can vote early at ANY location, it doesn’t have to be your assigned election day location! (If you live in a different state, the VSA tool will let you know what your local rules are!)
Questions about voting?
I highly recommend calling 866 OUR VOTE, which is a nonprofit election protection hotline run by volunteer attorneys. They will be able to answer any questions for you around voting, specific to your state and city. And if they don’t know–they’ll research the answer for you and get back to you! They are WONDERFUL. (In fact, a few GG readers volunteer for them!)
IMPORTANT: If you requested an absentee/mail-in ballot and would now like to change to vote in person, double-check the rules in your city/state. In Illinois, you must bring your blank mail-in ballot with you to “surrender” your ballot in order to vote in person! I only know this because I called the hotline!