As we approach the upcoming presidential election, I hope each and every one of you takes the time to become a registered voter in your county and become aware of what it means to be a voter in America. November 3, 2020 will be the first election I am eligible to vote in, and it is a moment I have been waiting for since I turned 18. I wasted no time in filling out my registration paperwork on my birthday two years ago because I understand the power my vote holds and the privilege I have in voting with ease. Not everyone has this same opportunity. As we gear towards the possibility of most of us using mail-in-ballots to vote, it is in your best interest to understand important deadlines and information to ensure your voice is still heard through your vote this fall.
I am lucky to live in a town where my local polling place is less than a mile away from my house; I could walk there if I wanted to! In fact, my small town has at least five polling locations, which makes them incredibly easy for voters to access on Election Day. The polling places are efficient, and lines never get too long because there are so many locations within the town.
However, this is not the case for all places. Some polling locations across the country have their voters waiting in line for over two hours, which becomes an issue for people who can’t leave their job for that long in order to cast their vote. In fact, there are companies that refuse to let their workers to leave work on election day in order to vote. Sometimes polling locations close due to unforeseen circumstances, leaving voters to show up to closed polling places. Other times, registered voters are turned away at the door at open polling locations. And now, with the growing concern and spread of COVID-19, many voters are unable to leave the safety of their home as they or someone they live with are at high risk for getting the virus. Voter suppression goes unnoticed by many voters who have never faced these issues, which is why the importance of mail-in ballots this upcoming election is growing. Everyone should be able to vote in the national election with ease while staying safe and comfortable.
The purpose of mail-in ballots isn’t to ensure a certain group of people have “more power” than anyone else. It equals out the playing field in a system designed to benefit certain individuals or towns. With the option of mail-in ballots, people who aren’t usually able to vote in person, such as low-income voters, the elderly, and voters with disabilities, have the opportunity to participate in civic duty just like everyone else. However, this mail-in system does have some important logistics to keep in mind. For Pennsylvania, applications to vote by mail must be received by your county office by October 27 at 5 p.m. Voted ballots must then be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 postmarks do not count. It is recommended to mail your ballot at least two weeks before Nov. 3 to ensure that your vote is counted for in the event that there are delays. Many counties have drop-off locations as well, where you can drop your sealed mail-in ballot at a drop-off box supervised by officials on Election Day. Each state and county has its own rules, so take the time to do your research!
I recommend visiting Voter.org to receive more information and to request a mail-in absentee ballot. Every state has its own guidelines for mail-in ballots, and state election office websites also have more information. While the 2020 Presidential Election will be different than all elections prior, it is vital that we take the time to become registered voters, educate ourselves on voter suppression and remember that we have the opportunity to make changes happen. Whether you will be voting in person or through the mail, keep in mind that the mail-in ballot is the only way some Americans are able to cast their vote this year.