VOTE 20

Why You Should Consider Voting Early In Person, If You’re Able

Another way to dodge the danger and inconvenience of Election Day crowds, as well as mail delays with the USPS, is to vote early — an option that is available in some capacity in every state.

A voter arrives at a polling place in the Pearl Park Recreation Center on August 11, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota | Getty Images
A voter arrives at a polling place in the Pearl Park Recreation Center on August 11, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota | Getty Images

As the 2020 presidential election draws closer, Democratic lawmakers are working to make mail-in voting more accessible to Americans, despite efforts to delegitimize the process from President Trump, who has openly denounced mail-in ballots (despite using them himself). 

Though Trump has publicly admitted his intentions to suppress additional funds to the Postal Service, therefore making it harder to vote by mail, recently-appointed Postmaster General (and Trump ally) Louis DeJoy recently said in front of the House Oversight Committee, “We will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.”

But many still fear that the Postal Service will struggle to accommodate all the mail-in ballots requested for the November election — and plenty of voters who requested absentee ballots during the primary election didn’t even end up receiving them. New York Times journalist Jamelle Bouie has also pointed out that Trump may try to delegitimize mail-in ballots that will still need to be tallied after Nov. 3 if he takes a lead on election night. 

“First, he’ll claim victory. Then, having spent most of the year denouncing vote-by-mail as corrupt, fraudulent and prone to abuse, he’ll demand that authorities stop counting mail-in and absentee ballots,” Bouie said. “If in-person voters are disproportionately pro-Trump, and mail-in voters are disproportionately pro-Biden, then you have the ingredients for an election night standoff, where the president claims victory before all the votes have been counted and tries to secure his ‘win’ by keeping mail-in ballots off the table.”

To prevent the uncertainty the expanded mail-in process may create, Bouie, along with other high-profile advocates (including former First Lady Michelle Obama) are urging Americans to vote in person if they are able and don’t run a high risk of having their health compromised. 

Addressing the threat Trump poses to a free and fair election, Obama also said in her DNC speech, “We have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored. Because right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting.”

It is no secret that voting in person on Election Day can entail long lines and a lot of waiting, especially if there is a shortage of polling stations in a given area. And since the country is still battling the coronavirus outbreak, it also creates added health risks — which the expanded mail-in voting system is supposed to curb. 

Several states start in-person early voting 40 days or more before an election. That means in some states, like Illinois, Michigan, or Minnesota for example, you could vote at the end of September or starting October 1. Given the amount of time allowed, early voting locations are very rarely crowded. Find out your state’s early voting rules here.

Ballot drop off

Not all early voting has to entail physically going to a polling location — many states have drop boxes available somewhere in the city for voters to take their absentee ballots without having to mail them.

Marc Elias, a voting rights lawyer, has encouraged people to ask for more drop boxes in their communities.

How can I vote in person safely?

The Brennan Center For Justice, a non-partisan law and public policy institute, recently released guidelines for how to carry out safe in-person voting. One of its recommendations was for jurisdictions to expand the number of voting locations for November to avoid overcrowding. 

Not everyone is able to vote in person, which is what makes mail-in and absentee systems so valuable. However, if you are able to safely vote in person, it could help balance out a series of voting processes the president is trying to obstruct.