Election season is finally here! Across the country, you can begin to exercise your civil duty and participate in the 2020 presidential election with early in-person voting and absentee ballots. Voting is a critical part of being an American citizen, and the right to vote was hard-won. Even today, more than 5 million Americans are disenfranchised from voting because of criminal records, and likely, even more, are prevented from voting by so-called protections against voter fraud that create unnecessary obstacles. If you are able to vote and are registered (the date has already passed, unfortunately), you should absolutely get out there and exercise your right. In fact, 8% of people who have voted early so far this election had never voted before. This election will impact every single American and is being watched around the world. Voting is still complicated and confusing from the different rules and regulations that govern every state, so I have broken down four main questions around voting with answers pertaining to Ohio.
- Will my vote be counted?
Right now, voting is more contentious and important than ever. The president of the United States has frequently and openly advocated false dangers of voting via absentee ballots by saying this leads to widespread fraud and “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.” He has also insinuated that he is not supporting funding the United States Postal Service to hinder mail-in voting. To the set the record straight, in the past two federal elections 25% of Americans voted via mail-in absentee ballot, there are five states where mail-in ballots are the main way of voting, and from 2000 to 2012 there have only been 491 cases of mail-in voter fraud, as detailed by the Brennan Center. So yes, if you vote correctly, your vote will be counted. After all, Trump is voting via absentee ballot.
- Should I vote early or on November 3rd?
How you vote is entirely up to you. Presidential elections in the United States have always been held on the first Tuesday of November, despite the fact that other democratic countries hold elections on the weekends or on a holiday to ensure people can vote. Voting early allows you to pick a time and date that works best for you. It’s like doing an assignment for a class; you can do it the day of, but if you want to avoid any surprise delays, going ahead of time can be best. Voters across the country have already turned out in droves to vote with more than 22 million ballots already cast as of October 16th. It is predicted that more than 150 million ballots will be cast creating a turnout greater than any election post-1908. If you are registered to vote in Ohio, you can look at the state of Ohio’s website to find information on where to vote early or the day of. Remember, the election is on November 3rd and early voting began October 6th.
- Should I vote by mail or in-person?
There are different factors to consider when deciding between voting in-person and via absentee ballot. First and foremost is your health. While Ohio is doing everything it can to keep voting safe, for many people, going to a public polling place may be dangerous for themselves if they are at-risk for coronavirus or they are ill. Voting by the mail may be the safest option. The second reason is convenience. For some people requesting a ballot from here and then mailing it back or dropping it off at the Board of Elections seems simpler. In fact, it only takes one stamp to mail a ballot in Ohio, and if you don’t have one, the USPS will still deliver it (but please buy stamps to support this amazing public service!). For other people going in person is just easier. While the massive hourslong lines being seen across the country may be intimidating, it is important to note that early voting has fewer polling places than day-of voting. However you vote, it is important to do it correctly. Look up instructions ahead of time, and whether it’s remembering to sign the ballot envelope or bringing identification to the polling place, be prepared.
- What’s a naked ballot?
You may have seen a trend online of celebrities filming themselves naked to advocate for the end of naked ballots. Don’t worry, this is not a risque version of the “Imagine” chorus that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic. Absentee ballots that are not properly completed and placed in two envelopes are being referred to as naked ballots. Mail-in voting requires properly following the instructions. When I voted via the mail, I received my ballot, a set of instructions, and two envelopes. On the ballot, it is necessary to correctly fill in the bubbles for whom you are voting for, and it is also necessary to correctly write your identifying information and sign the envelope. I placed and sealed my ballot in the first envelope, as indicated, and then I placed this envelope in the larger envelope with a stamp to be mailed out. Failure to complete any of these steps may result in your vote not being counted.