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2020 election: Where is my polling station and how do I vote in my state?

Changes to polling places may occur due to coronavirus pandemic

Louise Hall
Tuesday 03 November 2020 21:58 GMT
US election: Who is winning the swing states?
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Election day is fast approaching as the world awaits to find out who will become the next president of the US.

Although at least 36 million Americans have already cast their ballot ahead of the election, millions of Americans will be making their way to the polls across the country on 3 November.

So where and how can you cast your vote in the 2020 election if you haven't done so already?

When is the election?

The 2020 United States elections will be held on the 3 November, 2020.

Voters are set to head to the polls on the day to select the next president, much of Congress and thousands of state-government candidates.

Read more: America’s electoral college system, explained

What are the different ways of voting?

There are two main ways that Americans can cast their vote in the US election this year: in person and by mail.

In person voting

In person voting involves attending your local polling booth station to cast your vote then and there. Most people will do this on Election Day on 3 November.

You may be able to vote in person ahead of the election, which is called early voting. Most states allow voters to cast their votes early at specific locations if you can’t make it on Election Day. Check guidance on early and in-person voting from your state or territorial election office here.

Absentee or mail in voting

Absentee, or mail in, voting allows you to send your ballot from home without attending a polling station.  

There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation in this year's election around the difference between absentee and mail in voting. The two terms are often used interchangeably and there is not much difference between them as both refer to the method of using the mail to deliver ballots to voters.

To receive an absentee ballot, a registered voter often has to request one through their state government. Each state has absentee mail in voting but some allow you to take part only in certain circumstances.  

Many states have relaxed their guidelines to allow more mail in voting amidst the pandemic.

Read more: When do polls close on US election night? A state-by-state guide

Some states automatically send out absentee ballots to resident’s addresses before Election Day, a practice which has also been increased by some during the coronavirus pandemic. This has sometimes been referred to as all-mail voting.

You can return your ballot by posting it into local ballot drop boxes or by mail, but anyone voting absentee should check in advance for deadlines in respective states for posting and returning of ballots.

Where can I find my nearest polling station?

The US government encourages citizens to check their polling place close to Election Day.

Changes to polling places may have occurred due to the coronavirus pandemic such as different locations, layouts, procedures, and availability of extra assistance.

You can find your local election office contact for information about your nearest polling place and its hours here.

What do I need to bring?  

Two-thirds of states expect you to provide identification to let you vote at the polls, according to the US government.

In-person and early voters will need to check whatever identification is required locally and bring this with them to the polling station.

For those voting absentee, places with photo identification requirements may require you to upload an image of acceptable identification electronically or send a photocopy in with your paper application when requesting your ballot.  

What might be different this year?

Due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, polling stations may have more guidelines in place to ensure the safety of voters such as social distancing measures and mask-wearing recommendations.  

Voting in person may take more time as a result of social distancing measures, so it's important to plan in advance and give yourself enough time to vote.

It's worth remembering that in most areas, if you’re in line to vote after polls close, you’re still entitled to wait and cast your vote as long as you remain in line.

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