Hard as it is to believe, Election Day 2020 is finally here. As the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden finally draws to a close, we’re here to help with some basic questions about the vote.
Can I vote online?
You can use the internet to post a tweet that loses you billions of dollars, if you are Elon Musk. Or that sows doubt in the integrity of the electoral process, if you are the president of the United States. But unless you are serving overseas in the military or are a citizen abroad registered in some US states, you cannot vote from your phone, or online at all. Sorry.
The reason is simple: There’s no existing technology that can ensure your vote wouldn’t be tampered with if sent electronically over the internet or a cellular network. Voting security experts say that even the apps and websites that overseas military are permitted to use to vote are not secure. Earlier this year, a security audit of online voting platform Voatz found numerous issues. Voatz disputed the analysis, but remains sidelined for the vast majority of US voters.
Which is probably for the best. Given that elections can be prime targets for hackers and meddlers, it’s simply too risky to prioritize your convenience over electoral security. In fact, despite a good amount of progress made in recent years, voting machines that rely on the internet are potentially insecure, which is partially why experts are so enamored of the idea that we all vote the old way: on paper ballots, which can be audited and checked.
But don’t be discouraged! Voting in person can be fun! And it doesn’t have to be that hard. All you need is to be registered and know where to go.
So. Am I registered to vote?
You can confirm if you’re actually registered to vote here; all you have to do is fill in some personal information. If you are, great! The hardest part is over. Find out where to go by visiting your local election website, which you can find by simply filling in your address at Vote.org here. You can also use other third-party websites and apps like Ballotopedia or Vote411. Some of these will even show you what’s on your ballot and let you compare candidates.
If you’re not registered, you still might be able to vote if your state allows same-day registration. Currently 19 states let you register on Election Day itself. If you live in one of them, make sure to double-check whether you can do so at your polling place itself or if you have to go to the town or county office first. Either way, bring your ID and a proof of residency like a utility bill with you when you go.
What if the polling place can’t find my name?
If for some reason the polling place doesn’t have your information, and if your state doesn’t allow you to register day-of, you can still ask to cast a provisional ballot. You can also do this if you try to vote at a different polling place than you are assigned to (though certain states won’t count provisional ballots if you aren’t in the correct precinct), or if your name has changed. You may also be asked to do this if you forget your ID and you live in a state with strict voter ID laws.