The Last-Minute Guide to Making Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

How to vote safely and ensure your voice is heard in each state plus Washington, DC.

Grace Han/Thrillist
Grace Han/Thrillist

The 2020 General Election on November 3 may still feel like a ways off, but considering the pace at which 2020 has mercifully flown by so far, it’ll be here before you know it. And what a relief that will be. Hopefully. But that also means the important deadlines you’ll need to meet in order to cast your ballot might sneak up on you, too. Don’t freak out. Now’s the time to do some research and make a plan for how you’ll vote -- and vote safely -- in this election to ensure your voice is heard. We’re here to make that a little easier with this comprehensive guide to voting in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Voting is probably going to be a bit different this year due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, and of course, the resulting focus on voting by mail in many states. For a lot of voters, the experience won’t resemble the usual process of heading over to a polling place, walking into a voting booth, and casting a ballot, though that’s certainly still an option. Should you choose to take that route, there are several ways you can reduce your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. The key is to find out what options are available in your state and to figure out which one is best for you.

Of course, casting a ballot is easier in some states than in others. Every state has its own set of ways to vote, deadlines, and requirements. In fact, early voting -- whether it be the traditional in-person way or via absentee ballots -- has already started in Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and more as of late September, and voters are receiving mail-in ballots in many other places across the country. The election has already begun. There’s a chance you could cast your ballot today and get it all out of the way should you choose. 

To find out more on how you can vote safely and ensure that your vote counts this November, click on your region below to find the voting guide for your state.

As a lifestyle website that focuses on the intersections of food, drink, travel, and entertainment, we’re dedicated to serving local communities across the country, especially during an American milestone like this election. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Use it to make sure your vote counts. You have the power to shape the future of this country. Vote.

Did you know? Many states allow voters to return their completed absentee ballots by hand-delivering them to their local election officials or placing them in secure drop boxes instead of relying on the embattled USPS to transport them on time. This option makes it possible for voters to receive and fill out their ballots from the safety of their homes amid the pandemic and, better yet, lets voters ensure they’re received for additional peace of mind. Check to see if your state offers absentee ballots via mail and the ways you can one beyond mailing it back.

Did you know? Both Uber and Lyft are offering discounted -- and in some cases, free -- rides to the polls on Election Day. Although it didn’t specify what the discounts will look like, Uber promised to also help users locate their polling places to make their trip to vote even easier. As for Lyft, the ride service platform is inviting users who need to get to the polls to use a nationwide discount code, “2020VOTE,” for 50% off a ride to their voting location. Additionally, the company is giving free ride codes to voters living in underserved communities, thanks to LyftUp’s non-profit partners like Black Women’s Roundtable, National Federation of the Blind, and the Student Veterans of America. Disabled riders will also have access to ride credits.

Did you know? The USPS said it is prioritizing the delivery of election-related mail, stating on its website that it has “a robust and tested process for proper handling and timely delivery of Election Mail.” That doesn’t mean you can procrastinate when requesting or mailing back your ballot. In fact, the postal service strongly recommends that voters request absentee/mail-in ballots as early as they’re available and no later than 15 days before the election. It also recommends that you get your completed ballot in the mail no later than a week before the deadline it must be received in order to be counted in your state. Don’t delay. If your voting plan involves sending or receiving anything via mail, you should go out of your way to make it happen as early as possible.

Did you know? There are rights you should familiarize yourself with before you vote. For example, if you’re in line by the time polls close in your state, election works are required to allow you to vote, so don’t leave. Or if you make a mistake while marking your ballot, you can ask for a new one. Both and the American Civil Liberties Union have helpful guides detailing your rights as a voter and the ways you can identify and resist voter intimidation and other illegal activity.

Did you know? One of the biggest reasons why absentee or mail-in ballots are rejected is because the way the voter signs their signature on the envelope doesn’t match what the state has on file (usually from the DMV or voter registration records). Different states have different laws for how to handle signature mismatches detected by election workers, with some requiring election officials to notify voters if their signature doesn’t match what’s on file so that they can correct the issue and have their vote counted. Of course, there are lawsuits challenging restrictive laws in some places, according to a report by CNN.

Did you know? The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued several recommendations for keeping yourself and others safe should you vote in person at a polling location on Election Day. There are plenty of ways to reduce your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19, including social distancing in line, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, planning to vote at a time when the polls aren’t as crowded, and, of course, wearing a mask. These are all common sense measures to take, but you can take it a step further by bringing your own pen, for example, or filling out a sample ballot with your choices ahead of time so that you spend less time in the voting booth.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.


Editors: James Chrisman, Kelly Dobkin, Jess Mayhugh, Tony Merevick, Amber Sutherland-Namako
Production: Kristen Adaway, Kyler Alvord, Liz Provencher, Jessica Sulima
Writers: Ruby Anderson, Meaghan Agnew, Wendy Awai-Dakroub, Emma Banks, Chelsea Brasted, Alex Frane, Billy Hallal, Caitlyn Hitt, Steven Lindsey, Molly Martin, Matt Meltzer, Dustin Nelson, Lauren Topor-Reichert, Megan Schaltegger, Lauren Sloss, Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Allie Volpe
Special Thanks
Editor in Chief: Helen Hollyman
Managing Editor: Pete Dombrosky


Graphic Designer: Grace Han