Voting is an important civic duty for any citizen 18 years or older. It’s easy to think since you’re only one person, your vote won’t hold any significance or make a difference. However, your vote always matters. For example, political power is influential, otherwise, people wouldn’t try to take voting rights away from certain individuals. Voting is the principal part of democracy as it gives citizens the power to control the government and choose what policies we will put into place. Political power is also pivotal for the government resources we will receive.
This year, your vote in the general election is crucial, since there’s such a massive divide in the ideology of our political parties. Social distancing rules and a high turnout of voters will make the poll lines longer, however, millions of people will vote by mail. Voting by mail can come with it’s own set of challenges, like ballots not arriving, mistakes with zip codes or apartment numbers, and arriving past the deadline which can cause them to be rejected. The best thing you can do to make your monumental voting rights count is to research your state’s voting instructions and information. Since we are living in weird times that make voting more difficult than usual, we are here to separate the myths from facts to prepare for Election Day 2020.
Fact: With Covid-19, voting has become a little confusing. Maybe you don’t feel safe going to a polling location (especially waiting in long lines) or you can’t get time off work to make it to the polls on Election Day. Either way, there are alternatives, so everyone will have the ability to vote. One of these is sending in an absentee ballot. Vote.org has all the information for absentee voting broken down by state. For California, all voters who register to vote by October 19th will receive a mail-in ballot for Election Day by executive order. Also, any California voter may apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail, even if they can vote in person. Another alternative is early voting (depending on the State), where voters can cast their ballot before Election Day. In California, this varies by county, so be sure to contact your local elections office to confirm if they offer early voting privileges.
Fact: While the United States Constitution has amendments set in stone that tell states they cannot do certain things, such as deny a vote based on race, gender, or age, it doesn’t explicitly state that all citizens have the right to vote. For example, each state controls its own voting policies and procedures. Therefore, every state, county, and voting district has different voting rules. Be sure to check the laws in your state to find out (here are Californias)!
Fact: This is not always true. For example, there have been multiple presidential elections where the winner had not received a majority of the popular vote. The Electoral College who officially elects the president, has the final say in who is going to win. Each state’s number of electors is equal to the number of House of Representatives it has, which is based on the state’s population. With 538 electors in the College, they need only 270 to win the election for President. Most states award their electoral votes based on a winner-take-all system. This is where whichever president gets the most votes in a state receives all the state’s electoral votes. (This isn’t always the case though, and electors have no obligation to vote this way). This system is why a presidential candidate may win the popular vote but not be elected president.
Fact: Each state is red or blue, depending on what the majority vote is in the Presidential elections and Senate races. A red state votes Republican and a blue state votes Democratic. So, say you live in a red state but vote blue, your vote still matters. Your vote matters for the Senate, House, gubernatorial, and mayoral candidates. Also, you have a say in propositions, city council elections, school board, and other local elections that sometimes means even more in your day-to-day life. Senate vote is vital because each of a state’s two senators has a say in the President’s ability to make policies. Your vote also counts because states are now becoming less predictable in which way they will vote. In 2016, we saw blue states turning red, and then it flipped and we saw usual red states voting blue in the 2018 election.
Fact: If you’re attending college away from home, you can register to vote using your schools’ address or your parents’ address. You have the choice, but you can’t be registered to vote in two places. To find out how your state works, check their voting policies. You should be able to submit an absentee ballot if you’re registered in your home state and attending school out of state.
Fact: Each state has its own rules on ex-cons being able to vote. Maine and Vermont are the only states where felons never lose their right to vote. In 16 states, felons lose voting rights only while in jail but can re-register after being released. In 21 states (including California), felons lose their rights to vote while in jail and on parole or probation. However, voting rights are restored afterward. Lastly, 11 states have ordered felons to lose their voting rights indefinitely depending on the crime. Only with a governor’s pardon can they get their rights back. If you want more information on this, check your states felon voting policies.
Fact: This is not true—at all. In studies from 2020, the youth (aged 18-29) makes up ⅓ of all eligible voters. More and more young people are becoming passionate in wanting to improve the country, the world, and their futures. They are the ones who are taking a stand for their beliefs (they’re the ones leading the BLM protests). Youth voting will only continue to rise, especially since they were the only age group that expanded their turnout rate from 2012 to 2016.
Fact: This couldn’t be farther from the truth. State and local elections matter, sometimes even more than the presidential elections. Like I mentioned in Myth #4, voting for Senate, House, gubernatorial, and mayoral contests are very important. Also, votes for propositions, city council, school boards, bond measures, and many local elections are significant to your daily life. These elections decide on things like tax rules, housing decisions, and certain worker’s rights. The outcome of these votes can affect your community in a major way.
Fact: These are different, but essentially the same. Absentee ballots for voters who cannot physically make it to a polling place on Election Day because of work, sickness, or various other reasons. Mail-in voting are ballots sent through the mail which a lot of states are adopting for this election, due to Covid-19.
*Vote.org has forms that allow you to request absentee ballots.
Fact: For absentee voting by mail, there are different forms of it. Excuse absentee voting refers to voters who need to provide a valid excuse to vote through an absentee ballot instead of in person. Some of these excuses include being out of town, being sick or having a disability, work obligations, or incarceration with the right to vote. No-excuse or just mail-in voting, like California is doing, is voting by absentee ballot even if you can make it to the polls. Mail-in only voting is where voters in certain states need to request absentee ballots if their ballot needs to be mailed to another address.
Fact: The Brennan Center of Justice has done various studies showing that voter fraud is rare. Politicians for years have extensively claimed that illegal voting was going on. This Center’s research shows that fraud is rare, voter impersonation is nonexistent, and any fraud reports have come from voter or administrative mistakes. Mail-in ballots are also very secure and safe. Their reports have shown that these voting fraud allegations are exaggerated, and problems are usually due to irregularities and election misconduct.
Fact: Each state once again has different registration rules, deadlines, and voting status confirmation. To confirm that you are still registered, Can I Vote is an outstanding resource. You should check at least 30 days before November 3rd to make sure you will be registered in time if something goes wrong. You will need to re-register if you moved or changed your name after the last election. With rampant voter disenfranchisement throughout many states, it is always smart to check.
Fact: Some states are automatically sending mail-in ballots or request forms if you are registered to vote. However, others are not and a mail-in ballot will need to be requested by your states deadline. Specifically for California, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is by October 27th this year. For it to count, your ballot must be postmarked or hand-delivered by November 3rd, or post received by November 20th. You can use the U.S. Vote Foundation’s website to ask for an absentee ballot and to find your state election deadline.