Voting in the 2020 Election: Information for the First-Time Voter
The 2020 general presidential election is less than 40 days away, and tensions are somehow higher than they have been for the past year. For most of Beloit College’s students from the United States, this is the first national election that they are voting in. And thus, it’s important to highlight some important information about voting in general, as well as some information that is even more pertinent this election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more detailed information about voting in this election, please check the Ballotpedia website for the 2020 election. This website provides nonpartisan information about everything from voter IDs to absentee ballot request deadlines.
Of course, the first step to voting is to make sure you’re registered to vote. This process is different for every state and it’s important that you visit your state’s voting website for more information! The registration deadline for every state is different and you can check either Ballotpedia or your state’s voting website to see what your state’s deadline is. Also, make sure you have any IDs needed to be able to vote at the polls or to send a copy with your absentee ballot, if applicable. As Beloit College students, you can register to vote in Wisconsin if you wish. As a battleground or swing state, registering to vote in Wisconsin may make your vote carry more weight than it would if you are from a Republican or Democrat majority state.
Secondly, whether you vote at the polls or with an absentee (AKA mail in) ballot, make sure you follow the instructions on the ballot carefully. Lots of ballots get thrown out because the instructions are not followed correctly. For absentee ballots, a common reason these get tossed is because the voter either does not sign the outside of the ballot, or does not have a witness sign the ballot. For in person voting, incorrectly filling out the ballot—as confusing as some states make this process—can not only cause your ballot to be thrown out, but you could accidentally vote for the people you didn’t mean to vote for. Regardless of how you vote, however, remember to use only black or blue ballpoint pens and make sure you don’t make any stray marks. Otherwise, the ballot will be unreadable by the machines and will either throw out your vote or mark your vote for the wrong person.
Lastly, we all need to remember our rights. If you are an American citizen it is your right to vote for whoever you want to vote for if you’re a registered voter. Of course this is easier said than done for many people nationwide, as intimidation tactics historically used against BIPOC have been suggested and are allegedly still being used. While voter intimidation is technically illegal on a federal and state level, people in positions of privilege may not face adequate consequences for any actions they take which violate this law and thus, they do not feel afraid to violate it. It’s — unfortunately — our own responsibility to make sure we protect each other the best we can if we go to vote in-person.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an absentee ballot is highly recommended. Check the Ballotpedia site for information on how to request a ballot in the state you are registered to vote in. These ballots can either be mailed or dropped off at your polling place. Despite any message saying the contrary, voting by mail is more secure and has less cases of fraud than in person voting.
Please stay safe this election cycle.