2020 Voting Guide: Primary Elections, Mail-In Ballots and All Your Biggest Questions Answered

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"I want to remind everybody that we got an election coming up," former first lady Michelle Obama recently spoke to the nation, "and it couldn't be more important that everybody makes their voice be heard this time around."

As usual, she's right. The upcoming presidential election will see voters choose between four more years of Donald Trump (and his VP, Mike Pence) or the presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden (and the woman he chooses as his running mate), amid increasing political, economic and social turmoil.

There are many, many issues to consider when casting your vote this year -- issues that have only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protesting -- but here, we're tackling the (relatively) hard and fast topic of voting. It's your civic duty, after all.

If you don't vote? Well, Mrs. Obama has an answer for that too: "You are giving away your power to someone else -- someone who doesn't see the world the same as you. You're letting them make some really key decisions about the way you live," she explained. "The truth is, that's exactly what some folks are hoping you'll do. They're hoping that you’ll stay home so that they can make these important decisions for you."

Step 1: Register to Vote

Whether you need to check your voter status, update your information or sign up to vote for the first time, click on over to vote.gov or vote.org as your one-stop shop. (You can also double, triple or quadruple check your status at Can I Vote.)

In most states, you can register to vote in November's general election up to October -- with some states allowing day-of, in-person registration -- but confirm your state's deadlines to be sure. That said, don't procrastinate: Register now. It only takes a minute.

Voting in the Primaries

Many states held their primaries -- the election to vote for whom you want your party's presidential nominee to be -- on Super Tuesday back in March. Others are still forthcoming, including those delayed due to the pandemic.

For when and where to vote, here is an up-to-date calendar:

June 30: Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah (state primaries)

July 7: Delaware (presidential primary), New Jersey (state primary and presidential primary)

July 11: Louisiana (presidential primary)

July 14: Maine (state primary), Alabama and Texas (state runoffs)

Aug. 4: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington (state primaries)

Aug. 6: Tennessee (state primary)

Aug. 8: Hawaii (state primary)

Aug. 11: Connecticut (state primary and presidential primary), Georgia and South Dakota (state runoffs), Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin (state primaries)

Aug. 18: Alaska, Florida and Wyoming (state primaries)

Aug. 25: Oklahoma (state runoff)

Sept. 1: Massachusetts (state primary)

Sept. 8: New Hampshire and Rhode Island (state primaries)

Sept. 15: Delaware (state primary)

Nov. 3: Louisiana (state primary)

Dec. 4: Louisiana (state runoff)

As for the where, vote.org can direct you to your local polling place. And while voting may have added complications this year -- due to COVID-19 or general voter suppression, for which you should know your rights -- do not let that discourage you. Go out and vote.

That said, it may behoove you to look into...

How to Vote by Mail

Despite any debate, voting by mail is a very valid form of voting. (Fun fact: Trump and no small slice of his White House staff vote by mail.) And especially this year, amid the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it's important to know your mail-in voting rights to ensure a fair and safe election.

Unfortunately, those rights differ from state to state. Some require you to explain why you can't vote in person before they'll provide an absentee ballot; some states have elections held entirely by mail-in ballot. Find out your state's vote-by-mail rules here and deadlines here.

Sign up for a mail-in ballot here.

So, What's Next?

It's full steam ahead after the primaries. The big day is Nov. 3, but here is a look at what's coming between now and then:

Aug. 17–20: Democratic National Convention

Aug. 24–27: Republican National Convention

Sept. 29: First presidential debate at Notre Dame University

Oct. 7: Vice presidential debate at the University of Utah

Oct. 15: Second presidential debate at the University of Michigan

Oct. 22: Final presidential debate at Belmont University

Nov. 3: Election Day


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