2020 has been nothing short of a tumultuous year. From a global pandemic to political unrest to the mounting plea for racial and social justice, the escalation of the year seems to keep intensifying. And perhaps this feeling is here to stay until the final months of the year. We are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of November, when the fate of the United States is in the hands of many unsettled Americans. The importance of voting is discussed every year elections arise, but this year, voting has an unprecedented impact and value to a country seeking change on a larger scale than possibly ever before.
Stand Up. Speak Out. Vote.
The upcoming election cycle is just months away, making the importance of taking action against injustice a timely matter. As our nation continues and escalates the fight for equality, voting offers we the people the ability to leverage our voices and elect leaders who will fight for communities as a whole, for our country as a whole. This year has reignited the awareness of systematic injustice that disproportionately impacts minority and marginalized communities. With that, the impact of voting cannot be taken lightly.
Marginalized communities have experienced spikes in incivility, violence and advances on their livelihoods, health-care access and more. Protections for LGBTQ communities, immigrants, those of color or minority faiths have been rolled back or expelled over recent years, and the people in power are ultimately to blame. This upcoming election cycle presents an opportunity for systematic change in the right direction. It is more important now than ever for all Americans to use our voices in advocating for more just and equal societal measures in our country.
The presidential election plays a vital role in shaping the overall demographic of policies, but is not the only race to be won. For widespread change to be implemented across the board, local and state politics play a large role. Voting in local and state elections sets the precedent for the big election looming on the horizon, and though many have already passed this year in the midst of 2020’s turbulent waters, there are still a few left. (Check here for your state’s primary elections info.)
For many Americans, especially those of the younger generations, this is the first year they are turning out to vote. For millennials and gen z-ers, who have come of age in a nation peppered by war, recession, mass shootings, climate crisis and now a global pandemic, the idealistic America has never existed. For the first time possibly ever, young voters have the ability to have an impact as large as the generations that came before them in the polls. With the increased voter turnout comes evolved demands surrounding our leaders and officials. The idea of taking into account what younger people – many of whom have led in the recent revolution for social and racial justice in local communities – have to say is new and ever-present. Self-education and awareness surrounding voting and how it systematic change starts from within is a prevalent thought in the minds of many young, fired-up voters. With more and more Americans pledging to vote for change in November, during the midst of a pandemic, the conversation on more change in the field of voting itself is on the table. 2020 is the year of the unthinkable, but don’t think for a minute that your vote does not matter or count. To register to vote, click here.
Voting in 2020 – Turning Out to Mail-In
The landscape around voting this year is different than any other year in American history. Instead of an election night, we are looking more at an election month in reality. There will be more absentee ballots used than ever before – making the counting process longer and the end results later. An absentee ballot is a vote cast outside the voting booth, originating as early as the Civil War, meaning a mail-in-ballot is essentially an absentee ballot, though different distinctions have been made by the current administration.
Even pre-pandemic, the trend toward mail-in ballots was on rise with an estimated 30% of voters using the mail-in method. Now, in the midst of a pandemic riddled world, those numbers are pointing to at least half if not more of Americans choosing to vote-by-mail. States with primary elections this year saw an increase in absentee ballots as the months progressed, jumping from an average 13% for early primary states to 50% or higher in latter months like May, June and July. Because the voting landscape is vastly different this year, the exit polls and prediction methods we and the media use to determine who the winner of the presidential race is, will be looking quite different. Even in the seven states (California, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Hawaii and the District of Columbia) that mail ballots to all voters, we may know the outcome of Blue vs Red on election night, but it will do little to declare one way or another in the overall election.
Each individual state governs its own election rules, and many states are moving to make it easier to vote absentee and by mail. That said, different states have different rules about when ballots can be received and still counted. Many states allow voters to track their mail-in ballots so you will know when your ballot is received and counted. The vast majority of mail-in ballots that are rejected or not counted is due to a late arrival, a problem with the signature on the ballot, or no signature at all, according to EAC data. Voting early and double-checking your signature matches your state issued ID are two of the best way to ensure your mail-in ballot is counted in this years election. The United States Postal Service has procedures in place to ensure voters can reliably vote by mail, find their recommendations and FAQ about voting by mail here. Similarly, Vote.org has created state-by-state election date, deadline and rule information – which can be found here.
If you are not yet registered to vote, click here to do so. This year, more than any other, voter turnout will have a big impact on the results of the election upcoming in November. Whether you choose to go to the polls or vote-by-mail, your vote matters. Exercise your rights and demand systematic change from the top down. For more voter information based on your specific state, visit Vote.org.