Vote today: The best ways to travel to your local polling site or ballot dropbox
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Every election is important. But the 2020 election today Nov. 3 is particularly crucial. This year, U.S. voters will make major decisions that impact all three branches of United States government, as well as the rest of the world.
Much as our nation values freedom in all forms, there are times when our actions suggest otherwise. The Washington Post reported that as many as 100 million eligible voters did not cast ballots in the presidential election in 2016. Several factors contribute to these low numbers, including public lethargy toward politics in general, especially among younger generations.
That doesn’t appear to be the case in 2020. The New York Times reports nearly 100 million Americans voted early.
But getting to the polls is an obstacle that disproportionately impacts elderly, disabled and economically disenfranchised voters. Texas Governor Greg Abbott limited each Texas county to just a single dropbox for mail-in ballots, leading to protests that it was a move aimed at voter suppression. It also raises concerns over safety as the coronavirus continues to rage through the U.S.
Related: Free stuff for Election Day
The Pew Research Center reports that more than 50 percent of voters who are eligible to vote this year anticipate a complicated voting process. If you’re one of them — or if you’re able to help a needy family member or neighbor cast their vote this year — here’s what you should know.
Step 1: Register to vote
Registering to vote is the most important step you’ll take this season, besides casting your actual vote itself. Many states have stringent cut-off dates by which your information must be registered and confirmed in order for you to not be turned away at the polls.
It’s late to register, but some states do allow same day registration and voting.
TPG’s Nick Ewen has penned a helpful guide for travelers who will vote by absentee ballot this year, complete with state-by-state deadlines, and voters can check for individual state registration deadlines, including in-person or postmark requirements on Ballotpedia.
Note that in some states, your deadline falls on the date that your registration is received, while for others, it’s the date that your registration is postmarked. So double-check your requirements earlier rather than later — this is not a time to procrastinate until the last minute.
If you’re back in the air, you can even register to vote on Delta flights via free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi.
Early voting dates
Once you’re registered to vote, many states and U.S. territories allow voters to cast their ballots before Election Day itself, which falls on Nov. 3 in 2020. Early voting typically ends a few days before Election Day itself, but can begin as early as a month and a half before the election, or as late as the Friday four days before the election.
Why would someone want to vote early? There are several reasons, including a big benefit for 2020:
- Early voting offers greater schedule flexibility, especially for voters whose availability may be erratic or unpredictable.
- Early voting allows elderly, high-risk or otherwise compromised voters to select visit times with less people around — a very real concern this year, with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing across the country
Election Day is a national affair of significant importance. However, not every employer offers time off of work to vote on Election Day. Regulations vary from state to state, so if you’re working on this all-important Tuesday, check your calendar beforehand to plan out your time to vote.
Step 2: get to the polling sites
For those of us with cars or easy access to public transportation, the answer is fairly straightforward: Look up the nearest polling facility in the precinct where you’re registered to vote. (Check here for polling place locators for each state.) If you’re driving, don’t forget to research nearby parking options, especially if you are voting on Election Day.
If you don’t have a car or easy access to public transportation, a number of organizations are here to help. Rideshare2Vote helps voters in need get to their local polling facilities for free, and you can volunteer your time to help others as well.
Several bike-sharing companies are participating in “Roll to the Polls” via The North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA), and offering free or reduced-cost transportation to voters.
Ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft are both offering incentives for voters who need to commute, including discount codes for travel to polling places and dropboxes. If you aren’t planning to use your own code or want to help out a friend or a neighbor, you can always use your discount to call a ride for someone else to get to the polls.
On Election Day Lyft will offer each voter 50 percent off of one ride to any polling location or dropbox using code 2020VOTE. The discount will apply to rides, as well as to bikes and scooters in select cities. The promo code is valid from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time on Election Day, Nov. 3, for up to a maximum of $10 on any Lyft car ride, Lux excluded.
Lyft’s LyftUp program also partners with number of nonprofit organizations to offer free and discounted rides in communities where access to reliable, affordable transportation is limited. Partners include More Than A Vote, which is giving ride access to arena polling locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando; and Black Women’s Roundtable, which provides rides to voters in their community. Lyft also supports the National Federation of the Blind and Student Veterans of America with rides for their members, as well as a number of other organizations.
Lyft’s nonprofit partners receive credit from the ride hailing company, which they distribute directly to people within their networks who most need transportation.
If you’re a Lyft user, be sure to pay for the remainder of your rides using a Chase credit card to maximize your earnings of up to 10x per dollar spent on Lyft.
As part of the company’s initiative to boost voter engagement this election, Uber is offering discounted rides for voters and volunteers on Election Day, as well as free food and fun at select voting locations from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3.
Uber riders receive a 50 percent discount on round trip rides between home and polling facilities on Election Day, up to $7 one way or up to $14 total for both trips. The discount applies bike and scooter rentals as well, and is automatically applied when you use the poll finder feature within the Uber app to book your ride. The promo is valid on Election Day, from 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 3 through 3 a.m. Pacific time on Nov. 4, 2020. Unfortunately, California customers are not eligible for the discount.
Uber Eats is also partnering with Pizza to the Polls to keep voters company while they wait in the long lines that are anticipated for a socially distanced election season. Uber and Pizza to the Polls will deploy more than 180 food trucks across 25 cities to provide free Shake Shack, Milk Bar and other local favorites, along with good vibes and fun music. The food trucks will begin operating from Vote Early Day on Oct. 24, through Election Day on Nov. 3.
Uber customers will want to pull out their Platinum Card® from American Express for further discounts on civic participation rides to take advantage of the up to $200 annual Uber credit (for U.S. services), or pay with the Uber card for 5x per dollar spent on rides, Uber Eats and more.
Step 3: Make your voice heard
Of course, the most important part of the process is your vote itself. If you’re uncertain about where your values align with lawmakers and their proposals, check out nonprofit organization IssueVoter for nonpartisan educational resources. You can even send immediate feedback to your representatives.
Avoid having your vote invalidated
There are a number of ways that you can still “strike out” at the polls. Here are the important ones we know of, and we welcome any tips you have to share as well. Note them down for yourself, and make sure your friends and family are informed as well.
- You could be banned from the polls for wearing any clothing or carrying any paraphernalia with candidate names, political slogans or other recognizable language or images. Loyola Law School professor and politics expert Jessica Levinson told InStyle that, “The basic idea is that once you enter the polling place, it’s this sacred place where you can find Nirvana and vote for your representative, free from voter pressure or intimidation or confusion.”
- If you’re voting by absentee ballot in Pennsylvania or Virginia (and possibly other states), your vote will be considered invalid if you do not utilize the second “secrecy” envelope included in your voting kit. Be sure to read up on the requirements — and if you have any questions or concerns, make sure you’re clear on the instructions before submitting your ballot.
- If you’re mailing in your ballot, be careful to make your ballot signature match the one on your driver’s license or similar identification, and ensure that your ballot receives a valid postmark.
If it seems like the entire nation is buzzing about Election Day this year, that’s because it is an incredibly important day. The process can be complicated — but it’s worth the work. So exercise your civic duty, help your fellow Americans make their voices heard too — and maybe even earn yourself some bonus points along the way.
Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.
Featured photo by No Mad/Shutterstock.
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