How to Exercise Your Right to Vote This Election

| Kathleen Kiernan

Writer and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg once said, “Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country, and this world.” As we count-down to Election Day, people across the country are exercising their right to vote, whether that’s by mail or in person. As you consider what voting means to you, She Should Run teamed up with Rock the Vote and Ballot Ready to help you understand what will be on your ballot, how to make your voting plan, and how to recognize barriers to voting and protect your ballot.

(Image Sourced by Bustle)

Understanding Your Ballot

Let’s start with the basics. Your ballot is a sheet of paper on which you make your vote for candidates running for office and depending on where you live, a law that will impact your community. When you are preparing to vote, you will want to take a look at who and what will be on your ballot so you can make an informed decision on what to vote for. Luckily, Ballot Ready has made this easier than ever to do. When you type in the address that you are registered to vote in, it will show you your sample ballot. This will include the Presidential candidates, candidates running at the state and local level if your state is hosting elections for those levels, and any ballot measures. Here are some tips to help you once you’ve viewed your ballot:

• Compare and contrast the candidates. How are they different? How are they similar? What are their accomplishments? What are their values?

• Check their responses to issues. What issues are they focusing on and what are their solutions?

• View endorsements. Endorsements from right-leaning or left-leaning organizations or issue-based organizations like the NRA or Planned Parenthood can give you an insight into how the candidate feels about policies and tell you whether your values and beliefs line up with theirs.

Tip: A ballot measure is a law, issue, or question that appears on a state or local ballot for voters to decide. Ballot Ready can help you understand the language of the measure, what you’re voting for or against, and help you determine how you want to vote.


Making Your Voting Plan

So you’ve researched your ballot and you know which candidates and ballot measures you’re going to vote on. Now’s the time to make your voting plan. First, check your voter registration status and make sure you’re registered. Next, figure out how you’re going to vote. Will you vote by mail or in-person this year? If you’re voting by mail, make sure you request your ballot today. No, really: request it right now. Some states like Colorado and Washington, D.C. are mailing every registered voter a ballot, and in other states, like Georgia, you have to request your mail-in ballot. Once you’ve completed your ballot (make sure you follow the instructions carefully!), you can either mail it back or drop it off at a ballot box. 

• If you plan on voting in person, here are a few questions to consider:

• Where is your voting center? 

• What time will you arrive? 

• How are you getting there? Do you need a ride?

• Who else can you bring with you?

• Do you need to take off work or secure childcare?

• In states with voter I.D. laws: Do you have all the necessary documents to vote?

Answering these questions a few weeks before Election Day will make voting easier and more enjoyable for you. Also, you might want to consider voting early where the lines are typically shorter.

(Image Sourced by Hope Ann Flores | The State News)


Barriers to Voting

Now that you have figured out who you’re voting for and how you’re voting, let’s talk about barriers to voting. Anything that keeps you from voting is considered a barrier. These include:

• Voter ID requirements

• Inaccessibility: ability, age, language

• Voter role purges 

• Polling place closures/consolidations

• Voter intimidation tactics 

• Reduced early voting

• Reduced voting hours

Call (866) OUR-VOTE if you feel your rights have been violated. There will be lawyers on hand to answer Election Day questions and concerns about voting procedures.


Election Protection

This brings us to protecting our elections and your ballot. Because there are real barriers to voting and voting this year looks different than it ever has due to COVID-19, you’ll want to ensure that your ballot is counted and your voice is heard. We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again: make sure you are registered to vote. If you plan on voting by mail, make sure you read, understand, and follow all of the instructions for mail-in voting. For example, if you vote absentee in Alabama, your ballot must be witnessed by two people or notarized and if hand-delivered, your ballot must be received by the close of business, but no later than 5 pm, on the day prior to Election Day.

If necessary, you may need to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. A provisional ballot is cast by a voter whose eligibility to vote cannot be proven at the polls on Election Day. If, after the election, administrators determine that the voter who cast the provisional ballot was eligible to vote, the ballot will be counted as a regular ballot. 

Lastly, check the results! Since many people are voting by mail this year and many states are operating differently with rules on when they are accepting mail-in ballots, we may not know the results until a week after Election Day so be patient as voter officials work to make sure every ballot is counted. 

(Image Sourced by Sébastien Thibault) 



For more information on exercising your right to vote, we invite you to join our community where you can join with more than 21,000 women and discuss tips and tricks for voting and understanding the ballot, and you can watch a full webinar about what a ballot is and who’s on it, including guest speakers Ballot Ready Electoral Fellow Taylor Raymond and Rock the Vote Director of Civic Partnerships and Campaigns Allie Aguilera DiMuzio. 

Resources from Rock the Vote: 

State by state How-to-Vote center which tells you deadlines, vote-by-mail requirements, ballot tracking where it’s available, and more!

Absentee ballot request tool.

The Empower App, Rock the Vote’s relational organizing tool that lets you connect with your community directly.

Civic Tech Tools in case you want to put a voter registration or election reminder widget on your website. 

Resources from Ballot Ready:

Election Center: your new best friend, all in one planning tool for everything Election Day.

Ballot Parties: Get involved! Set up an information session with family and friends to share your ballot knowledge.

Super Voter: Amplify your voice and activate your network.

Become A Partner: Use the power of BallotReady, the nation’s largest electoral database to help your community vote this year.

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