A first time voter’s guide to the 2020 election

By Max Silverman
October 27, 2020

Voting is one of the most important duties that American citizens have. 
Photo by Beverly & Pack
Voting is one of the most important duties that American citizens have. Photo by Beverly & Pack

With the election right around the corner, many young and first-time voters are getting overwhelmed with how to vote and what to bring to the polls. Additionally, coronavirus protocols add more complications to this process. Here are some tips on how to vote and what is needed at the ballots.

In order to be able to vote in-person in an election, a person must be at least 18 years old and be a resident of that state you plan to vote in. If someone is out of state or the country, they can apply for an absentee ballot and send their vote by mail.

When registering to vote, you will also need to choose your county you will be voting in and the polling place you will be going to. Choosing the right county is important so that votes can be tallied more accurately. The Pennsylvania State Department has a tool that can help find nearby polling places in a county.

Voting is an important way for citizens to influence change. Photo by kgroovy.

Once someone registers to vote, they should then research the candidates that will be on the ballot. While many people vote along party lines, it is important to see what candidates hold the values that you do. Voting is one of the main ways we can influence change, so it is important to vote for people that holds viewpoints similar to yours. Some websites will be able to tell what candidates will appear on your ballot such as Ballotpedia.

Before going to the polls, remember to know their hours. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. However, if there is a line when the polls close, those people can still vote. When standing in line to vote, there is a good possibility that you will be waiting for a few minutes to a few hours, so you should bring some snacks and water in case you get hungry or thirsty. In addition to bringing food and water, bringing a beach chair might be nice if there is a long line.

Since lines for polling places may be long, bring food and water incase you get hungry and thirsty. Photo by Tim Brown

One crucial item needed to be able to vote for your fist time is your ID. Almost any form of ID is valid. A driver’s license, school ID, employee ID, and even a US passport are all admitted.

Another important item to bring is a pen and a mask. Because of COVID-19 protocols, polling places will not allow people to enter if they do not have a mask. VotesPA recommends voters to bring a pen to limit exposure with shared objects. Additionally, many polling places may not have pens to fill out a ballot.

When filling out a ballot, be sure to make your marks legible so that that your vote can count. You must use a blue- or black-ink pen when filling out the ballot. Make sure that nobody else can see your ballot when handing it in.

After voting, be sure to watch the results on TV. Major broadcasters such as Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN will be televising this important event. However, due to the large amount of mail-in ballots this year, there is a good chance that the results of the election may be delayed.

While the voting process may seem overwhelming to new voters, it is relatively straightforward. Follow the polling place’s instructions, and just get out and make your voice count.

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Max Silverman

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