Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at LUM chapter.

For many of us, 2020 is the first presidential election that we can vote in. At first, the entire process can be a little confusing and overwhelming. However, with the right guidance and information, voting is actually pretty easy! It’s up to you to make sure that you are informed, and thankfully, you have a lot of accessibility to many resources. So here is your ‘Voting 101’ guide to make sure you’re good to go for November!

Recognize the Importance of your Vote!

I’m sure you all have heard the pessimistic response to voting- the “well, it’s not like one vote will count.” This actually is not true whatsoever. It’s important to recognize the power of one vote. You can’t get to millions of votes without one! And remember, if everyone had the mentality that their vote didn’t count, then the entire system wouldn’t work. Recognize the significance of your vote and that every citizen’s vote matters equally, which is pretty cool.

Register to Vote

Deadlines to register to vote are approaching fast, and in almost all states you need to register before you vote! So, when are these deadlines? A lot are in October and November. An easy google search will let you know exactly what day voter registration ends for the upcoming election. Let’s say that you hopefully make the deadline- how exactly do you register to vote? In 40 states voter registration can be done online. Below is a link to the American Civil Liberties Union site that has a chart of all 40 states’ individual voting websites.

ACLU Website with Links to States’ Voting Websites

Absentee Ballots

You may have heard of it but, what exactly is it? An absentee ballot is essentially voting only instead of it being the traditional in-person option, it’s through the mail. You definitely need an absentee ballot if you will be out of your county of residency on election day, which applies to many college students. Most students vote by mail to get their votes in while they study whether they’re in another county, state, or country!

You can also request an absentee ballot for different reasons whether that be because you are nervous of in-person voting due to COVID-19 or voting by mail is simply easier for you. It’s important to note that some states require that you give an excuse as to why you want an absentee ballot and COVID-19 doesn’t count as a valid excuse in some states.

Use the following link to see if you can vote by mail this year in your specific state:

State or Local Election Office Websites

Staying Educated on Presidential Values

When making the decision to vote for a certain candidate, it’s important that you stay informed on the things that they want to do if elected. Finding trustworthy information can be difficult, as there is a lot of misinformation spread – especially on social media. Overall, it’s important to use a combination of both the news and things the candidate has said themselves. This way, you can see the discrepancies between both sources and base an opinion. If you want to find out what values each candidate claims to hold, check out their official websites below.

Donald Trump: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/

Joe Biden: https://joebiden.com/


Watch the Debates

Another amazing way to get information about each candidate’s stances on different topics is the debates. Throughout the debates, you will get to see the live interaction of candidates. The debates are helpful because they highlight the contrasting opinions of the nominees. In addition, it is convenient because you can go to one source for information on both candidates, and at one time. One Presidential debate and one VP debate already took place. Luckily, if you missed either one, they still are both accessible on a variety of different platforms and are linked below!

First Presidential Debate of 2020, from September 29th

First VP Debate of 2020, from October 7th

Be sure to be on the lookout for any new information regarding the final presidential debate on Oct 22nd!

Voting in Person

If you plan on voting in person, you’re not going to want to miss out on this information. First, most states, actually 2/3 of them require you to provide identification when voting. Below is a map that outlines specifically what kind of ID you need to bring, or don’t, depending on what state you live in. So, where to vote in-person? If you are unsure of where local voting sites are, check out the following website that allows you to see where voting sites near you are located. You can also explore your options with early voting!

Voter ID Requirements in Each State

Voting Site Locator

Say No to Ballot Selfies

One last thing everyone needs to know about voting: it’s not the time to take selfies.

We completely understand your excitement! Voting for the first time can be a moment you’ve been waiting for since you were little. However, do not take pictures with your ballot! Depending on what state you live in, this could get you arrested. There are some states that do allow you to take a picture of your ballot but just to be safe, it’s recommended that you don’t take any chances when it comes to invalidating your vote. For more info on where it is legal, illegal, or unclear to take a selfie with your ballot, check out the map on the article below.

Ballot Selfie Map

(Editor’s Note: Be mindful of the laws regarding electronics and having your phone out if you plan to vote in person. Electronic devices are strictly banned from polling places in the state of Maryland!)

Hopefully, this article made the potentially daunting task of voting less complicated and more enjoyable! Be sure to exercise your civic rights this election season!

Peyton Skeels is a senior at Loyola University Maryland studying Economics with a minor in Entrepreneurship. She is an RA, member of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society, and currently serves as a co-Campus Correspondent and the Editor-in-Chief for HC at LUM. When not studying, you'll find her gazing through her camera lens, listening to a podcast, or working on her blog, Patience and Pajamas.