In the midst of a national pandemic and historic unemployment, calls to defund the USPS and a nasty public relations battle threaten to dismantle safe and secure ways to vote in this high-stakes election. All eyes are on the November 2020 election: more people are paying attention to politics and enthusiasm is high. Which is exactly why everyone in America — from Taylor Swift and Bella Hadid to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — are talking about the United States Postal Service (USPS).
The president recently said he would reject emergency funding to the USPS because, "they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots." Despite voting by mail himself and encouraging his own campaign supporters to do so, President Trump is claiming mail-in voting will lead to fraud, which many critics claim is an attempt to suppress the vote.
Despite the fight over defunding the USPS, there's still time to ensure the election goes smoothly. Here are the five things you can do now to make sure every vote is counted in 2020:
- Request an absentee ballot NOW. There is no evidence that voting by mail leads to fraud. In reality, voting by mail is secure and safe. It also gives voters the opportunity to review their ballot in their own time and do research on candidates. When voting by mail in many states, you have options for returning your ballot. You can drop it in the mail or bring it to your local election office before Election Day. In some states, voters have up to two weeks to drop their ballots off at their polling location or in a secure drop box in their county. As with other things in life, the earlier you start the vote-by-mail process, the better! If you live in a state that requires you to request an absentee ballot, request it as early as possible so you have time to receive it, fill it out, and return it — all while avoiding any delays in the USPS delivery process.
- If you can't vote by mail, make a plan to vote in person wearing a mask, either early or on Election Day. Studies show that having a voting plan increases a person's likelihood of voting by nearly 10 percent. Check out your state's in-person early vote and Election Day voting hours and determine what you need to bring with you to the polls. Before you go, look up your polling place — remember, it may have changed since the last time you voted! Finally, make a plan for getting to the polls. Companies like Uber will be offering free rides to the polls on Election Day. If you can, make voting a family affair or invite a friend to meet you at the polls. Remember: you must be in line by the time the polls closed to be allowed to vote.
- Dial 866-OUR-VOTE if you have questions. Even the most experienced voters can get confused about voting and, in the midst of a global pandemic, you may have questions about new rules. Save 866-OUR-VOTE to your contacts so that you can call or text them if you have any questions or concerns while casting your ballot. If someone you know faces an issue while voting, be an advocate for them! Reach out to 866-OUR-VOTE to help protect people's votes on Election Day.
- Sign up to be a poll worker. The United States is facing a widespread shortage of poll workers this year due to COVID-19, which could result in closing polling places and long delays for voters. Especially if there are issues with the USPS, we will need more — not fewer — volunteers at the polling places making sure everyone can vote safely, fairly, and efficiently. And if saving democracy isn't enough, most poll workers also get paid!
- Donate to Pizza at the Polls. If the rest of 2020 has been any indication, we should be prepared to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. Many voters will need to vote in-person on Election Day and, to make sure they can do so safely, polling places will have to keep voters socially distanced. You can help make sure any voters waiting in line have snacks and a hot cup of coffee waiting right there with them by making a donation today.
We are living through unprecedented times, yes; but we can't let that stop us from making our voice heard. Americans have managed safe and fair elections through times of war, economic depression, and even in the middle of the 1918 pandemic. With some states mailing ballots to voters as soon as September 4, we need to act now to protect our vote: get your ballot, make a plan to vote, and do what you can to help make sure others can cast their ballot too.
Ashley Spillane is a voter engagement strategist and Founder & President of Impactual who is mobilizing record voter turnout in 2020 alongside voter access nonprofits, for-profit businesses, and consumer brands. Maya Jenkins is a Program Associate at Impactual working to create a healthy democracy through the power of civic engagement.