Midterm Elections: How To Vote?

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Meme: “At this point, I am too afraid to ask

You have found motivation to vote early, you check to see when early voting ends for you, and you get ready to rush to the polling location. That’s when you realized you don’t even know what to do when you get there. People have tried to tell you when to vote, but people don’t always tell you how to vote. No worries, because we’ve got you covered. This article will cover voter registration, the ways to vote early, voting on Election Day, and things to bring with you to the polls. Happy Voting!

“Whether you want to vote early or on the day of, familiarize yourself with the candidates and their values and views first and foremost. Visit our site to be connected with your candidates, filter-free.” – Final Note (refer to the bottom of this blog)

Voter’s Registration

Next to familiarizing yourself with the candidates, in terms of importance, is to make sure you are registered to vote. You may check your voter registration status here. If you have not yet registered, click here to do so. Some states may offer in-person registration, registration by mail, and/or online. Some states offer Election Day registration, others require their voters to be registered a month in advance. However, there are deadlines to voter registration. You may check for the registration deadline and available ways to register offered by your state here. All states, except North Dakota, require citizens to be registered as voters before they can vote. After you are registered, it’s time to actually vote! You can wait to vote on the day of election or beforehand. Read on to discover more about both, with a final note of the steps summarized.

Voting Before Election Day

You most likely will not have to wait until Election Day to vote. 34 states offer no-excuse early voting, three states use all-mail voting, and 47 states offers an absentee ballot option. Below are the two different ways to vote before Election Day, unpacked.

Early Voting

As mentioned before, thirty-four states offer this option for those who are too eager to wait until the actual Election Day, those who know they cannot make it to the poll on the Day, and basically anyone. Early voting is usually done in person, unless it is with a main-in ballot. However, because early voting is offered through a span of time, you can find the day that works best with your schedule. You also have a higher chance to find a less crowded poll location and skip the lines. Check here to see when early voting starts and ends for your state. Find your polling location and check what you need to bring to the polls below, in the “Voting Early or On Election Day” section.

Early voting are offered in AlaskaArizonaArkansasCalifornia, District of Columbia, FloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasLouisianaMaineMarylandMassachusettsMinnesotaMontanaNebraskaNevadaNew JerseyNew MexicoNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermontWest VirginiaWisconsin, and Wyoming.

Three states use all-mail voting, which the voters can submit before Election Day. The states will automatically mail registered voters ballots before the Election Day. Upon completing the ballot, voters can choose to mail in their ballot at any time, drop them off at designated locations, or vote in-person at designated locations. Voters may also receive additional services at those designated in-person locations. If the voter chooses to mail in their ballots, they have to be postmarked, latest, by Election Day. This eliminates the need for early voting.

The states that used all-mail voting are Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting, also known as mail-in voting, is voting before the Election Day via mail. Voters must request for this from the state of their residence. Forty-seven states, so all the states that do not use all-mail voting, offer absentee voting. This includes twenty-seven states that offers no-excuse absentee ballots, in which the state will not require an excuse upon receiving the request for an absentee ballot, and twenty states that require voters to give valid excuses for them to receive the ballots. Many states do require their voters to request absentee ballot by a certain deadline, unrelated to the voter registration deadline. More information on how you may obtain an absentee ballot here!

No-excuse absentee ballots are offered by Alaska, Arizona*, California*, District of Columbia*, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii*, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota*, Montana*, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey*, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah*, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

*These states offer their citizens to opt into a permanent absentee voting list, in which voters will receive absentee ballots for all future elections without requesting for them repeatedly.

Excuse-required absentee ballots are offered by Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Voting on Election Day

In-person voting is the most commonly used form of voting offered on Election Day in most states, unless the voter has requested for an absentee ballot prior (more information on absentee ballot in the “Voting Before Election Day” section above). Read the next section to find out where you can vote and which identification documents you will need to bring with you to the polls.

Voting Early or On Election Day

Whether you are voting early or on Election Day, a residence in non-mail voting states or all-mail voting states, check for the polling location offered by your county here. Read on to see what you need to bring with you to the polls below. Definitions of the required documents are listed below the infographic. The identification information shown is for 2018, and may be subject to change at later dates.

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Image Source: NCSL “Voter Identification Laws in Effect in 2018

Strict Photo ID

Voters must present valid photo IDs at the time of voting. No other forms of identification are accepted. A qualifying piece of identification must be current and issued by the government, the state, or the county; it must contain the voter’s name, a recognizable photo of voter, and any other information requested by your state. If a voter is not carrying a valid or qualified photo ID, his/her request to vote could be denied. In some states, voters may be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot. Voters must, then, present valid IDs via methods of state’s requesting, or sign an affidavit of identity within the number of days specified by your state (GA: 3 days; IN: 6 days; MS: 5 days; TN: 2 days; VA: 3 days). If the voter fails to return with proper forms of identification within the set timeframe, the provisional ballot will not be counted.

Photo IDs include, but are not limited to: U.S. passport, driver’s license issued by the state, ID card issued by the state or the federal government, voter ID card issued by the state or county, valid U.S. military ID. Check here for more forms of identification accepted at your state’s polling location(s).

Strict Non-Photo ID

Voters must present valid photo ID or qualified non-photo official documents at the time of voting. A qualifying piece of identification must contain the voter’s name, current address, and any other information requested by your state. If a voter is not carrying a valid or qualified form of identification, voter will be asked to complete a provisional ballot and to return, with a proper form of identification, within a certain amount of days set by the state (AZ: 5 days; OH: 10 days). If you a citizen of North Dakota, you may cast a ballot that will then be sealed in an envelope until a valid form of ID is presented within 6 days. If the voter fails to return with proper forms of identification within the set timeframe, the provisional ballot will not be counted.

In addition to the qualifying photo IDs listed above, non-photo IDs that may be accepted by your state include, but are not limited to: current utility bill, bank statement, government check, and paycheck. Check here for more forms of identification accepted at your state’s polling location(s).

Non-Strict Photo ID

Voters are requested to present a valid photo ID at the time of voting (potential forms of photo ID listed under Strict Photo ID section above). However, some voters without requested identification may be allowed to cast a ballot that is to be counted, without having to take any further actions. In order for this to happen, voters may be requested to sign an affidavit of identity, to be vouched by a poll worker, or to vote on a provisional ballot in which the validity will later be determined. The ability to vote without a proper form of identification is not guaranteed.

Check here for forms of identification accepted at your state’s polling location(s).

Non-Strict Non-Photo ID

Voters are requested to present a qualifying form of ID at the time of voting (potential forms of non-photo ID listed under Strict Non-Photo ID section above). Similar to the states enforcing non-strict photo ID requirements, some voters without requested identification may be allowed to cast a ballot that is to be counted, without having to take any further actions. In order for this to happen, voters may be requested to sign an affidavit of identity, to be vouched by a poll worker, or to vote on a provisional ballot in which the validity will later be determined. The ability to vote without a proper form of identification is not guaranteed.

Check here for forms of identification accepted at your state’s polling location(s).

No Document Required

Voter may show up at the poll without any identification document.

Final Note

Whether you want to vote early or on the day of, familiarize yourself with the candidates and their values and views first and foremost. Visit our site to be connected with your candidates, filter-free. Next, determine which voting method works the best for you by reading about them above; this doesn’t mean you have to commit to one method for every election, though you can. Find the location your county is holding your polls at. Be sure to also read about what identifications you need to bring with you. To prepare even further, you may print and fill out a sample ballot to take with you to the polls. Finally, take a deep breath, get out there and cast your ballot! Celebrate this day when you get to choose our next representative.

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