(TheRedWire.com) – Voting might be your right as an American, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to figure out how to do it right. Figuring out how to access mail-in ballots, where to find your polling station, or how to find the closest drop-off box can be a nightmare. Reports of voter fraud and uncounted ballots further complicate the matter; is it even worth it to vote?
Here’s how to make sure the answer is “yes.”
Register to Vote
Whether you vote in person, by mail, or at an early voting station, you must be on the voter registration list for your vote to count. You might already be registered, especially if you voted in the last election. Still, it pays to confirm early; if you show up to a polling station at the last minute, and you aren’t on the list, you might not be able to vote.
Non-partisan and nonprofit Vote.org offers simple tools to make this process easy for you. Visit this link to check your status, or this link to add your name to the list. You may be asked to provide personal information; this is necessary to verify your identity and prevent fraud.
Decide How You Want to Vote
How you vote matters almost as much as who you vote for. In most states, you have three main options available to you: voting in person, voting by mail, or voting via an absentee ballot.
To vote in person, you’ll need to confirm the location of your nearest polling station. Use Vote.org’s handy polling place locator to find all listings within your state. You may opt to show up on election day, or you can attend an early poll event instead.
Note that you’ll need to present your voter registration card and personal identification at the station in order to vote. Otherwise, you may be required to prove your identity in some other way.
By Mail or Absentee Ballot
Note that mail-in ballots and absentee ballots effectively use the same ballot process. The information in this section applies to either scenario.
Voting by mail can be a little bit trickier; exact rules vary state to state. Furthermore, not every location uses the same process. Your local elections office can confirm which guidelines apply to your individual situation.
You can also use Vote.org’s simple tool to request an absentee ballot. Provided that your state allows this form of voting, and you submit your request before the deadline, you should receive a ballot in the mail a short time later. Carefully fill it out according to the provided instructions.
Whenever possible, send in your mail-in ballot by placing it in the closest available Ballot Drop Box. If you don’t have a box nearby, you can also submit it via the postal service — just be sure to affix sufficient postage.
Read Instructions Carefully
One of the most common reasons ballots go uncounted or spoiled isn’t related to fraud, damage, or some other intentional form of interference. Instead, it happens because voters don’t follow the instructions, leave information out, or otherwise make some kind of mistake on the ballot that renders it invalid. This is especially common on mail-in ballots.
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of making sure you understand the instructions before you begin. This includes where to fill out your name, how much room you have, which details you need to add (or leave out), and how to correct your ballot if you’ve made a mistake.
If you run into problems at any point, or you aren’t sure how to proceed, don’t guess. Stop, call your local elections office, and ask for help. If you’re at a local polling station, a representative should be able to provide you with the guidance you need.
Get to Know the Candidates
You know how to vote, you know where to vote. But there’s still one important step left to making sure your vote really counts: getting to know the candidates. You can’t make an informed decision until you know the issues, what’s at stake, and what each side stands for, so do your research well in advance.
USA.gov recommends using BallotReady’s voting information system to find out which candidates will appear on your ballot. The same tool also presents a clear, non-partisan view of what they stand for, what they endorse, where they come from, and even who they are as individuals. This is a great place to start.
The news can also be a good source of info; just keep in mind that every outlet has its own unique level of bias. Or, you can visit a candidate’s website directly to see why they feel you should vote for them. Also consider watching debates, press conferences, and other informational sessions on television or online.
Have an opinion about who should serve as the next President of the United States? Great! The best way to make your voice heard is to cast your ballot in the next national election. Not only will you fulfill your civic duty as an American, but you’ll also play an important role in helping to guide our country into the future.
Copyright 2020, TheRedWire.com