When we launched the podcast miniseries, At the Polls, we asked listeners to send us their questions about voting this year. While over 44 million people have already cast their ballots, some questions remain about our rights and options as voters. Listen to the full podcast for your most frequent voter questions, answered.
Should I deliver my ballot by hand or by mail?
All voters should make a voting plan that works best for them, whether that means mailing their ballot, putting it in a drop box, or delivering it by hand. First, voters should make sure they know the deadlines in their state. Some states require all ballots to be back in the hands of election officials on Election Day. In others, your ballot must be postmarked by a certain date. Rules vary across states, so look up deadlines in your state as you decide how to cast your ballot — and return it early.
How do I make sure my mail-in ballot is counted?
In 45 states, voters can track their ballots online to see if it has been received. In other states — Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Mississippi — some local election officials track ballots. To see if your state offers ballot tracking, check out aclu.org/voter under “voting tips.”
If I use a voting machine, how can I confirm that my vote has not been altered?
There have never been any occurrences of widespread fraud in American elections. Elections are administered at the county and municipal level throughout the country, and polling places are staffed by professional election administrators whose job is to make sure your ballot is counted and your voice is heard. Further, most jurisdictions in the U.S. use paper ballots, ballot marking devices, or machines that provide a voter with a verified paper trail that they can use to make sure their vote was recorded properly.
I’ve requested an absentee ballot. Can I change my mind and vote in person?
The answer depends on where you live. In some states, including California, Michigan, and Florida, you must bring your absentee ballot with you when you vote in person. If you haven’t received your mail-in ballot, you will have to cast a provisional ballot at the polls.
Besides presidential candidates, what else can I expect on my ballot?
There are important and impactful races up and down the ballot this year, from the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate and state and local elections. While advocates can’t go around knocking on doors this year due to COVID-19, we can all get involved online. Local ballot measures can impact civil rights and civil liberties nationwide.
Oklahoma’s State Question 805 is an example. Oklahoma one of the biggest incarcerators in the country — and in the world — in part because of unjust policies that can land you in prison for decades or even life for low-level offenses like drug possession and shoplifting. There are similar policies across the country, so what happens in Oklahoma this year could help to start the conversation in other states.
Nebraska’s Initiative 428 is another example of a critical economic justice policy that could have nationwide implications. Measure 428 would put a cap on interest rates from predatory payday lenders at 36 percent. Currently, interest rates can be as high as 400 percent — often trapping individuals into a vicious cycle of debt. Payday lending is a predatory practice that has historically targeted communities of color across the country, so all voters should pay attention to Nebraska’s outcome on Initiative 428.
If members of my family can’t speak English, can they vote?
English is not a requirement to cast your ballot. Many jurisdictions provide resources to accommodate multilingual voting and to ensure that everybody can exercise their right to vote regardless of which language they speak.
If you have run into issues when voting, call the non-partisan Election Protection Hotline.
- English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683
- Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
- Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287
- For Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese: 1-888-274-8683
What should I do if I encounter intimidation at the polls?
Voter intimidation can take many forms, but voters should not expect to encounter it when they go to the polls. The ACLU and the broader voting rights community remain vigilant and are working to make sure that no voters face intimidation while exercising their right to vote.
No one has the right to take your vote from you. But if you do experience intimidation, there are ways to get help. Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE to report occurrences of voter intimidation.
At the end of the day, what everybody should know is that they can get help. The ACLU and other voting rights advocates are ready to jump into action should problems arise. Your job is to vote.
For information on voting in your state, see the Let People Vote guide. If you want to volunteer from home, visit peoplepower.org to learn how.