How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in DC This November

What you need to know ahead of the midterm elections, including key deadlines and how to vote by mail in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

As most Washingtonians know: every election (and every vote, for that matter) counts. That’s why all eyes are currently on the upcoming midterm elections, which will have major implications on how the next few years will play out—both for the way the president will be able to legislate and govern, and for crucial decisions that are left up to individual states.

Voting during the midterms in the District is a little different than if you were to live in one of the 50 states, though. While the momentum for DC statehood has hit an all-time high this year, we still don’t have a voice in the Senate and only have one non-voting Delegate in the House of Representatives. With that said, the midterms are still a huge election that will influence local politics around the country.

From studying up so you can make informed decisions to showing up to the right place on the big day, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into making your voice heard. Luckily, we've put together this handy guide with all the information and local dates you need to know for voting in DC, Maryland, and Virginia ahead of the midterm election on November 8. Happy voting!

What’s on the ballot: key races and issues

Like in all midterm elections, each of the 435 United States House of Representative seats are up for grabs, as members are elected for two years to represent their state. Over one-third of the Senate’s 100 seats are also up for grabs, as they are usually elected to six-year-long terms.

Congressional Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), is currently up for re-election. There are three political opponents gunning for her seat, including Republican Nelson F. Rimensnyder, Libertarian Bruce Majors, and Natale Stracuzzi of the DC Statehood Green.

Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is also in the hot seat during this election, with Republican candidate Stacia Hall running against her, as well as Independent Rodney Red Grant and Libertarian Dennis Sobin. The DC City Council will also be appointing their At-Large Member from Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6.

With a majority of Democrats currently in power, there has been significant momentum around the progression of hot button topics such as DC statehood, the legalization of marijuana, and maintaining abortion rights in our city. While not officially on the ballot, these issues and more are all on the table this November, as Republicans have indicated previously that they plan to intervene in DC affairs if they take control of Congress.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in DC, Maryland, and Virginia?

In Washington, DC, voter registration applications must be received by October 18. Luckily, there is still hope if you miss that deadline, as same-day registration is available at early vote centers during the early voting period (October 28 to November 7) and even at polling places on Election Day.

In Maryland, the voter registration deadline is also October 18, but you may also register to vote or update your voter registration information in person during early voting (October 27 to November 3) or on election day. Virginia is more strict, capping voter registration on October 17.

How to register to vote in DC, Maryland, and Virginia

You can register to vote in three different ways across the DMV: online, by mail, or in-person.

In DC, it’s easiest to use the District’s online portal to register. You can also check your registration status, update your name, party affiliation, and more. If you’d prefer to register by mail, download an application from the Board of Elections website, print and complete it, and mail it to the DC Board of Elections. More of an in-person kind of person? Pick up an application at the DC Board of Elections or at most public libraries. You can then mail it or deliver it to the Board of Elections office.

Maryland voters can register online. Those preferring to register by mail can submit this voter registration application to their local board of elections or the State Board of Elections, but it has to be postmarked by the voter registration deadline.

Virginians can use the state’s Citizen Portal to submit their voter registration, or download an application from the Office of Elections to send in by mail. You can also contact your local election office for info on when and where to register to vote in person.

Can I vote early?

Yes. Early voting is available across the DMV. Washington, DC’s early voting period is October 28 to November 7, Maryland’s is October 28 to November 7, and Virginia’s began on September 23 and runs until November 5.

Can I vote by mail?

Definitely. All registered DC voters will be mailed a no-excuse absentee ballot to vote in the general election. If you plan to be away from home during the election period, send a request for the ballot to be sent to a different address by October 24. Your completed ballot absolutely has to be postmarked on or before Election Day, and must arrive at the DC Board of Elections office within the week.

In Maryland, you must request a mail-in ballot from the State Board of Elections or your local board, and that request has to be received by November 1. Once completed, you can hand deliver your ballot to the local board of elections, an early voting center, or a ballot drop off box. You can also choose to mail your ballot, as long as it is postmarked on or before November 8, and received by your local board of elections on November 18.

In Virginia, you must apply online to vote by mail, then check in the Citizen Portal to see if your absentee application was received, and whether your ballot was sent and received. Your completed ballot should be submitted to your local general registrar's office by 7 pm on Election Day, you can bring your absentee ballot to a drop-off location, or you can return it by mail if it is postmarked on or before Election Day. It also has to be received by your general registrar's office by noon on the third day following the election.

How to find your polling place

You can find a list of DC voting centers and ballot drop off locations here, your assigned Maryland voting center here, and Virginia polling places here.

How to volunteer as a poll worker

If you’re interested in volunteering as a poll worker, first of all, good for you. In DC, there are certain requirements depending upon whether you’d like to be an Election Worker or Site Coordinator. You can check those out and complete your application on the Board of Elections website. Maryland voters can get involved by clicking on this link, and Virginians can read through the various requirements and submit an application here.

Additional DC, Maryland, and Virginia voting resources

The most reliable and up-to-date voting and candidate information can be found on each respective state or district’s election sites:

Washington, DC’s Board of Elections
Maryland’s State Board of Elections
Virginia’s Department of Elections

Austa Somvichian-Clausen is a freelance food and travel writer, as well as a staff writer for The Hill where she covers the topics of diversity and equality. She now lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and two fur babies, but called DC home for many years -- attending American University and then working for National Geographic.Follow her on Instagram.