The 2020 election is underway — here's how to request an absentee ballot, vote early, and vote by mail

  • If you plan on voting by mail, the first thing you have to do is register to vote as soon as you can, as deadlines to register in some states are early in October.
  • Voting is slightly different in every county and state across the country, but this year, it will be easier to vote by mail than ever before. 
  • At least 34 states and the District of Columbia are making exceptions and allowing everyone who's registered to vote by mail.
  • If you still want to experience voting in person, 25 states and Washington, DC, are already set to hold early voting.
  • Visit vote.org to check if you are registered to vote.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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Voting in 2020 is already underway, and it's looking different than it ever has before.

States are broadening the rules for absentee ballot requests and early voting — and more people than ever are expected to vote by mail. 

But you can't vote unless you are registered. So to check if you are registered, you can go to vote.org. Then you can request an absentee ballot. 

Usually, voters can request an absentee ballot if they have a reason for being away from their district, like if they're attending college in another state or are deployed on a military mission. But, this year, 34 states and the District of Columbia are making exceptions and allowing everyone who's registered to vote by mail.

You can go to vote.org and click on "Vote by Mail." There, you can select your state to learn the specifics. Sometimes, you may have to send an email to your local election official or fill out a paper form, but those scenarios are pretty rare.

In general, the earlier you request your ballot, the sooner you'll get it. 

Nine states, the District of Columbia, and some counties in Montana are automatically mailing ballots to everyone who's registered, without a request.  

But you should still plan on to check your registration information on vote.org to make sure your address is correct. Expect your ballots three to six weeks before Election Day. When you get it, fill it out exactly how it says so that scanners can read it. 

For example, if it says fill in the oval, fill in the oval — don't circle it. Use a blue or black pen, not a pencil. Don't forget to sign it, otherwise your vote won't count. The place for the signature is on the outer envelope, not actually on the ballot in some cases. 

Mail it back right away to give the post office ample time to deliver it — since it can take up to eight days to get to the right place. 

Experts worry that the higher number of requests could overwhelm the system and keep votes from being counted.  With that in mind, a lot of places will offer ballot drop-off locations at precincts or polling places. And you can often just drop it off at your local election office.

If you still want to experience voting in person, 25 states and Washington, DC, are already set to hold early voting. You might want to pay close attention to what rules and deadlines your state has. 

Keep in mind though, nine states will only allow you to vote on Election Day, November 3. Make sure to also check with your local elections office where early voting will take place, as it could be a polling station or a vote center. 

Verify the hours you can vote, since they may vary. Finally, make sure to bring the necessary identification to the polls. 

Thirty-four states require citizens to bring an ID. In 16 states and Washington, DC, voters can cast a ballot in person on Election Day without one. But voters still need to verify their identity in other ways, such as by signing an affidavit or poll book or by providing personal information, like your address or birth date.

Be prepared to wait in line, and take necessary precautions like wearing a mask.

For more questions, you can go to vote.org. Remember that voting is different in every county and state, so check your local elections website often, as rules and dates will likely continue to change because of the pandemic.

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