Do you know what day it is?
It’s National Voter Registration Day!
I thought it was the perfect time to refresh my “How to Create a Voting Plan” post, because early voting has already started in some states (and starts here in Illinois on Thursday!) and we need all hands on deck, friends!
No matter what state you live in, it’s important to come up with a voting plan, especially since 2020 has thrown us more curveballs than we EVER thought imaginable. This post will help you do just that.
Let’s be honest, sometimes you feel like you just aren’t educated enough on the issues. Or adding one more thing to your plate when you’re already running on fumes just seems insurmountable. But it’s important to remember that our democracy doesn’t work if not everyone takes the time to have a say.
If there is ANYTHING we have learned this year it’s that sitting on the sidelines is absolutely not acceptable anymore. (This, coming from a girl who sat on the sidelines for way too long.) There is just too much at stake.
You might hear some people say they don’t “get political” or they “don’t support either candidate, so they’re not voting” but don’t buy into that–because the truth is–doing nothing is the same thing as saying you’re totally cool with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, incompetence, bullying, anti-science, police brutality, fraud, keeping kids in cages, and taking healthcare away from millions of people in the middle of a pandemic. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
How to create your own voting plan
So if you, like me, at times feel like you’re “hanging on by a thread” right now with the weight of everything going on in the world, the good news is that we have the power to change that. More good news: all we have to do is show up and check a box!
So–let’s make a voting plan together! (And help all your friends create one too!)
Make sure you are registered (or have double-checked your registration this year)
Even if you voted in the last election, always double-check to make sure you’re still registered to vote. (If you’ve recently changed your name or moved, you need to update your registration!) Vote Save America is a great resource for registering for the first time or just updating registration!
Another easy way is to text VOTER to 26797 and you’ll be walked through the process to ensure you’re registered, and then it will walk you through the different options you have to vote in your state.
Find out your state’s deadlines and know when voting starts in your state
Head to VoteSaveAmerica.com and scroll down to “know your state” and select your state. You’ll be taken to a page that gives you deadlines as well as your options for voting so you can determine the best route for you to go!
Michelle Obama: "We've gotta vote early, in person if we can. We've got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they're received, and then make sure our friends and families do the same." https://t.co/ox37AApufY pic.twitter.com/sgDuOU8l51
— ABC News (@ABC) August 18, 2020
Decide on voting in person vs. by mail
Only you can decide the best voting method for you, and obviously, due to COVID, that decision should not be taken lightly! Regardless of the method you choose, the most imperative takeaway is the earlier the better. If at all possible, do not wait until election day to vote.
Vote in person EARLY
If you are low-risk, have not been participating in high-risk exposure activities, are committed to wearing a mask and social distancing, consider voting EARLY and in person.
How safe is it? Experts have said voting in person is about the same amount of risk as shopping at the grocery store. (This Atlantic article is a good one to read.) So, if that’s a risk level you are comfortable with already, voting in person could be an option for you!
My rationale (and I’m no expert, just sharing my personal thoughts) is that since I’m able, I plan to vote in person, so I’m one less person overwhelming the system with mail-in ballots (many from those who cannot vote in person)–therefore, I feel like this is the most failsafe method. And the more we can help avoid system overwhelm, the smoother the ballot counting process will go! (I also think it’s worth weighing how experienced your state is with vote by mail and how confident you are in that department.)
If you are voting early in person, the busiest voting days for early voting are typically the first day and last day, so plan to show up somewhere in the middle if you can.
Note: Early voting locations aren’t always the same as election day assigned locations. You don’t HAVE to vote at your designated election day polling location (at least in Illinois)–so just google “early voting locations [zip code here]” and you will be pointed to the right place!
Vote by mail EARLY (and pay VERY close attention to the details!)
There is a lot floating around right now questioning the legitimacy of voting by mail. In my personal opinion, I don’t really think you should be WORRIED about voting by mail so long as you vote early and not at the last minute.
Many states have been voting by mail for a very long time and are well-oiled machines at this point, and there is very little evidence of fraud. However, there are definitely some tips to be mindful of to ensure your mail-in ballot is counted.
First, enter your address here for more info on voting by mail in your state, and what you need to do!
Second, as SOON as you get your ballot, mail it back! Again, the earlier, the better. Many states (especially those who have not done a lot of voting by mail previously) are worried about the influx of ballots at the last minute.
Also, make sure you’re reading the instructions very carefully. If you use the wrong color ink, your vote won’t be counted. If your signature doesn’t look like the signature on your driver’s license, your vote might not be counted. I know we always skip over boring instructions, but this is one time you’ll want to give them your full attention!
Consider dropping your mail-in ballot at an official dropbox:
Worried about your ballot getting lost in the mail? Drop it off at a designated polling location. My tips for finding one are probably just googling, “mail-in ballot drop off [insert zip code here]” Note if voting hasn’t started in your state, this info may not be available just yet!
Find out where your polling place is if voting in person
Like I mentioned above, depending on your state, your election day polling place doesn’t have to be the same as your *early in-person voting* polling place. I recommend googling, “early polling locations [zip code]”
Get educated on the issues
There are so many officials on your ballot, it’s important to remember that voting for your local officials is super important, too! (In fact, some would even argue that they’re more important!) Senate races this year in particular are arguably just as important as the presidential race.
Vote411 allows you to explore who you’re voting for and where they stand on given issues! Just head to the site and click “what’s on the ballot” and enter your address. (Note, I believe the level of detail does vary by state and location, but it’s a really good place to start!) If you live in Illinois, I highly recommend IllinoisVotersGuide.org, which is what I’ve used to research the local candidates I was unfamiliar with.
(Side note: I’m pretty sure NOBODY is familiar with ALL the local candidates running. So seriously, never feel shame about that. That is why amazing resources on the internet exist, so you can quickly compare them and see where they stand on key issues.)
It was SO easy and allows you to go through each candidate, compare, add people to your ballot, and then email your ballot to yourself so when you go into the voting booth, so all you have to do is pull up your phone and check off the correct names. (It’s not like a standardized test, you’re allowed to bring notes, haha!)
Get the OK from your boss ahead of time
First off, if your state allows early in-person voting, you can skip this section–since early voting in many states includes extended hours AND weekend hours!
However, if you have limitations and need to ask your boss for time off, this section is for you!
IIn many states, employees are granted paid time off in order to vote! (In Illinois, it’s two hours!) This Business Insider article is a great resource to see what your state offers. Many employees, especially if you work at a smaller company, may still not be aware of this. (I wasn’t until a reader sent me this! Thank you!!)
The more heads up you can give your manager, the better. You don’t want to surprise them on a busy day by telling them they need to give you 2 hours of PTO at the last minute to vote! Make sure they’re OK with your plan ahead of time as a courtesy.
Here is some example language you can use if you’re unsure of how to bring this up to your boss:
I was hoping to take an hour or so on [x day] afternoon to vote, and wanted to make sure you go that worked with your schedule! I’ve already discussed with [x team members] and we’ve agreed to stagger the times we plan to take off, so we have adequate team coverage at all times. Please let me know if this works for you.
Thanks so much!
Image via Business Insider
Go with a friend (safely)
What’s better than going to the polls? Going to the polls with a friend! Instead of your usual socially distanced catch up over an alfresco glass of wine or walk in the park, ask a friend if they’d like to go vote together. And you can catch up during, before, or after!
Build in a reward
I don’t know about you, but I love a good excuse to reward myself. 😂 After you vote, treat yourself to a delicious latte, matcha, cocktail, ice cream–whatever! Voting is the single most productive thing you can do in 2020–you deserve it!
Bring a cheat sheet
Fact: You can bring your phone, notes, whatever in with you to vote! It’s not a test––if you don’t know certain candidates on the ballot and what they stand for, you can do a quick google search! You don’t HAVE to be educated on every single person you’re voting for––and don’t feel bad if you aren’t, because that’s the norm! That’s why I love Vote411–it lets you research and add candidates to your ballot. So you have an easy list to reference when you walk into the voting booth!
Know what you need to bring with you
What you need to bring with you to vote may vary by state, and differ based on whether or not you’re already registered––as many states let you register AND vote same-day.
A quick google search will lead you to the right place, or you can check out this Vote411 page. For Illinois, you can see IL registration requirements here. If you’re already registered, you don’t need to bring anything with you to vote in Illinois–just yourself!
Know your voting rights
It’s important to do your research on your rights as a voter! Unfortunately, in many states, they make voting harder and more confusing than it needs to be. And may even purposely try to confuse you based on who you’re voting for. (I’ve heard so many bad stories about this!) Rock the Vote has an entire page dedicated to voting rights and what they are by state so you can be confident in knowing your rights when you go to vote!
Put it on the calendar
For me, unless something is on my calendar, it doesn’t happen! Block off your calendar so you can ensure you plan your day around it accordingly.
Dress for the occasion!
Looking for something fun and festive to wear while casting your ballot? Grab the VOTE tee I designed with Alice & Wonder right here! 10% of the proceeds of our shirt go toward Vote Save America’s Every Last Vote fund! (More details on it in this post!)
I also just ordered this super cute collegiate style Biden/Harris sweatshirt that I will be living in for the foreseeable future! 🙌🏻