2020 has been a busy year, full of surprises. To top it off, the Presidential Election is just around the corner. No matter how you choose to vote, making your voice heard is one of the most empowering things you can do, especially in a time with so much uncertainty. As you consider how you want to cast your vote, it’s important to make sure you’re registered and prepared for Election Day. This comprehensive guide will walk you through what to expect, and what you may need to do throughout the voting process, from registration to turning in your ballot. At the bottom of this guide, you’ll find checklists for you to view and download to make sure you’ve got everything prepared.
Note: this is a guide for how to vote, and interaction with this website will not in any way register you to vote.
Step One: Determine If You Are Eligible to Vote
Before you can register to vote, make sure you are eligible. In order to vote in Virginia, there are a few criteria you must meet. It’s also important to make sure you are registered 22 days before the election! The deadline to register to participate in this year’s Presidential Election is Tuesday, October 13, 2020. To vote, you must:
- Be 18 years old or older.
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Be a resident of Virginia.
- Not be registered to vote in another state.
- Not currently declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
- Not convicted of a felony unless your right to vote has been legally restored.
So long as you meet these criteria, you can vote in the Presidential Election and in local elections. If you have any questions on what any of these criteria mean, you can contact the Virginia Department of Elections. If you’re in the military or a spouse or dependent of an active-duty uniformed services member, you may be required to provide additional information.
Step Two: Register to Vote
If you are eligible to vote, it’s time to register. First, check to see if you’re already registered. If you are, congratulations, you’ve already completed this step!
Are you a registered voter?
To find out if you are registered to vote, you can check online, or make a quick phone call at (800) 552-9745. You’ll need to provide the following information in order to use the online portal:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Social security number
Once you provide that information, the phone representative or online portal will update you on your registration status. If you’re already registered, there’s no need to go through the process again—you’re ready to find your polling location, or apply to vote absentee, so just keep scrolling.
Register to vote online.
It’s easier than ever to register to vote online. All you’ll need to do is visit the Virginia Department of Elections and follow the steps outlined in their online portal. You’ll be prompted to provide the following personal information:
- Legal name
- Residence address
- Date of birth
- Special security number
You’ll also be asked a few questions to make sure you’re eligible. All you’ll need to do is check the appropriate boxes for the following:
- Are you a citizen of the United States of America?
- Have you ever been convicted of a felony, or judged disqualified to vote?
- Are you currently registered to vote in another state?
- Are you an active-duty uniformed services member, spouse or dependent, or an overseas citizen?
Depending on how you respond to these questions, you may be prompted to provide additional information. In order to vote online, you’ll simply fill out the form, and receive confirmation once your application is processed. You can check the status of your application through the same portal.
Register to vote in person or through mail.
You can also register to vote at your local election office or by mail using this form. The office you will need to mail your application to, or visit in person, will vary depending on where you currently reside.
If you are currently a resident of Lynchburg city limits, you can get in touch with the right people at 825 Kemper St. Lynchburg, VA 24501-1303 or by calling 434-947-2798. You can also reach their office via email at email@example.com.
If you are currently a resident of Campbell County, you can get in touch with the right people at 41 Court House Ln. Rustburg, VA 24588-9701, or by calling 434-332-9579. You can also reach their office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are currently a resident of Bedford County, you can get in touch with the right people at 321 N Bridge St. Ste 200, Bedford, VA 24523-1927, or by calling 540-586-7649. You can also reach their office via email at email@example.com.
Step Three: Go Vote
Where to Go
In order to vote, you’ll need to be registered, and show up at your polling location between 6AM and 7PM. The General Election will be held on November 3, 2020. You don’t get to pick your polling location, and to make your voice heard, you’ll need to make sure you go to the right spot.
It’s easy to find your polling information online. To find your polling location, you’ll use the Citizen Portal provided by the Virginia Department of Elections. You’ll be prompted to login, and the option to view your polling place should be prominently displayed.
You can find contact information for the appropriate registrar in the section above based on your current residency.
What to Bring
In order to vote, you will need to bring a valid form of photo identification. This varies from state-to-state, and in Virginia, the following documents are accepted as valid forms of ID:
- Virginia voter registration card
- United States passport
- Virginia-driver’s license or DMV issued photo ID
- Military ID
- Student ID with a photo, issued at a high school or post-secondary school in VA
- Other US or Virginia government issued ID
- Tribal enrollment or other tribal photo ID (if issued by a tribe in Virginia)
- Virginia voter photo ID card
- Employer issued photo ID
- Any other identification card issued by a government agency of the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States
- Government-issued nursing home resident ID
When you arrive at the polling location, be prepared with your ID.
You have the right to vote absentee if you are unable to vote in person. You may want to consider voting absentee if:
- You plan to be out of town on November 3, 2020.
- You are currently an active-duty member stationed overseas, or a dependent of an active-duty member stationed overseas.
- Large crowds are overwhelming to you.
- Your work schedule does not permit you to be at the polls between 6AM-7PM.
- You have health concerns, particularly as they pertain to COVID-19.
- Any other reason that makes voting in person challenging.
In order to vote absentee, you will need to request a ballot. Note that if you opt to vote absentee, you will not be allowed to vote in person.
To apply for an absentee ballot, you can request to do so online. You’ll be prompted to login, and the option to view your polling place should be prominently displayed.
You can find contact information for the appropriate registrar two sections up based on your current residency.
Accessible Voting Rights
The Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 outlines the rights for individuals with disabilities when it comes to voting. If you are a voter with a disability, you have the right to vote privately and independently in an accessible way. This may include providing unique polling stations, or even bringing someone along to assist. If you require accessible voting accommodations, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org, or call your local polling office.
Lift up your voice and cast your vote.
At Community Access Network, what we do is directly impacted by elections on both the national and local levels. We encourage our Lynchburg community to learn about the different issues in our current political climate, and cast their vote in a way that feels empowering to them. And remember—the deadline to register is coming up on October 13, so make sure you’re registered as soon as you can. If you have any questions, reach out to the registrar or a nonprofit organization like Head Count.