Nevada: Here's How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election
What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.
The 2020 General Election on November 3 will be here before you know it -- and what a relief that will be (hopefully). But that also means that the deadlines you need to meet in order for your voice to be heard might sneak up on you too. That's why it would behoove you to make a voting plan ASAP, especially considering the pandemic may mean that voting may look a bit different this year.
Thankfully, voting in Nevada is easy. You can cast your ballot during early voting, you can vote by mail, and, of course, you can vote in person at you local polling place on Election Day. Should you choose the latter route, you'll want to check out the latest safety recommendations from public health officials. If you go with early voting or mail-in voting, there are important dates you need to know. We break it down so you can make sure your vote counts.
What’s the deadline to register to vote in Nevada?
There are three ways to register to vote -- online, by mail, or in person -- in Nevada, and three deadlines to know:
- Online: The Thursday before the election, October 29.
- By mail: Your voter registration application must be postmarked by the fourth Tuesday before the election, October 6.
- In person: The fourth Tuesday before the election, October 6.
If it comes down to it, you can also register to vote or update your existing registration in person at your local polling place both during the early voting period or on Election Day. Of course, that will likely mean you'll spend more time there.
You can check your voter registration status on the Nevada Secretary of State's Voter Search website. The site also allows you to update your registration in case any of your information has changed since the last time you voted.
How to register to vote in Nevada
The state lists a few requirements you must meet in order to be eligible to register. You must be a US citizen, you must be at least 18 years-old by Election Day, you must have continuously resided in your Nevada county for at least 30 days before the election, and you must have continuously resided in your precinct at least 10 days before the election.
The easiest and quickest way to register to vote is online. Just head over to the secretary of states's voter registration site. In addition to voter registration, the site allows you to view your existing voter registration, update your registration, and cancel your registration. The site makes it so easy that you really don't have an excuse not to do it. And do it ASAP. If you can't for some reason, set yourself a reminder. Put a sticky note on your coffee machine. Ask your mom to nag you about it. Whatever it takes.
You also have the option to submit your voter registration application via mail, though we can't imagine why you'd want to do that when it's so easy to register online. Likewise, you can register in person at your local County Clerk’s or Registrar of Voters Office, if you must.
Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Nevada?
Yes. All eligible voters are allowed to vote early in person. The Secretary of State's website cites several benefits to voting early, such as that it "increases voter participation rates," and that it "allows more accurate and efficient ballot counts," but another benefit to early voting is that you can avoid the big crowds and long lines of Election Day. That's important in the middle of a pandemic.
The early voting period starts on October 17 and ends on October 30, according to the state's early voting information page.
Can I vote by mail?
Yes. In fact, Nevada is proactively providing absentee ballots for mail-in voting to all active voters. The state will begin sending out the absentee ballots in late September and early October, though the date will vary by county, according to its 2020 General Election information page. Check with your county to see when it plans to send out the ballots, and if you haven't received yours around that time, contact them for help. Note that the ballots will be sent to the address they have on file with your voter registration info and can't be forwarded to another address via USPS mail forwarding, so make sure your voter registration is up to date.
How to vote absentee by mail in Nevada
Once you receive your absentee ballot, it's smooth sailing from there. You can vote from the safety of your kitchen table and return your ballot right away.
"Ballots can be voted and returned immediately once they are received," according to the state's election site. "You do not have to wait until a certain date closer to Election Day to vote your mail ballot."
There are two ways to return your completed absentee ballot:
- By mail: Complete your ballot and put it in the mail using the provided prepaid ballot return envelope. Make sure you mail it early enough to be postmarked no later than November 3.
- In person: Returning your completed ballot in person is as easy as stopping by a ballot drop-off location, and all counties will have at least one drop-off location (the state says to check this website for information on where those locations will be). If you're dropping off your ballot, you must do so before 7pm on November 3.
Either way, make sure you place your completed absentee ballot in the provided return envelope.
Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it’s counted?
You can check the status of your absentee ballot by logging into the Secretary of State's voter services website.
There are also a few key things you can do to make sure your absentee ballot is counted. Here's what the state has to say, per its 2020 General Election website:
"Regardless of how a mail ballot is returned, it must be returned in the provided ballot return envelope. Ballots returned in any other envelope will not be counted. If needed, a replacement ballot return envelope can be obtained from your county election office. Only one ballot should be returned per ballot return envelope. If a ballot return envelope contains more than one ballot, none of the ballots will be counted. Lastly, all ballot return envelopes must be signed by the voter. This signature is used to confirm the voter's identity, so if your ballot return envelope is not signed your ballot will not be counted."
The bottom line: carefully follow the instructions. Additionally, it's always a good idea to avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your voter materials -- you don't want your ballot to be thrown out on some sort of technicality.
How can I stay safe while voting in person?
Voting absentee is the safest way to vote in the 2020 General Election, but if you need to vote in person on Election Day, there are ways you can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued several simple safety recommendations for voters.
Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its official election guidance page:
- Wear a mask.
- Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
- Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again.
- Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them. This is where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Use it after you touch the voting equipment or any other equipment at your precinct. If you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried before casting your ballot or touching any of the equipment present.
- Try to vote when your polling place isn't at its busiest. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is or making a plan to vote early in the dat.
- Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
- Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it).
- If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. Knowing who you plan on voting for in each race will save you time inside the polling station.