What To Know If You’re Voting For The First Time On Tuesday

Look up your polling place and check if you’ll need to bring ID, for starters.

With Election Day quickly approaching (it’s Nov. 8, btw), it helps to have a plan for how to get to your polling place and what you’ll need to bring along in addition to knowing who you’ll vote for.

If you need help making a plan, check out Vote411.org, which is run by the grassroots political network League of Women Voters. Jeanette Senecal, the group’s senior director of mission impact, said research shows that if people have a voting plan, then they are more likely to actually get out and vote.

“Making your voting plan is really important because it helps people identify in advance that they’re going to be at the right polling place, it helps people identify in advance if they’re registered to vote or if they need to update their registration, it helps them make those decisions about which candidates they would vote for and who will best represent them,” she said.

Based on recent polling, races that will determine which party controls Congress remain close. In a number of states, voters are also weighing in on abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

“This year marks a really important election year where everyone’s rights are on the ballot,” Senecal said.

Here are the things you need to know to make your voice heard:

Check your registration.

There are several sites you can check to make sure your voter registration is up to date, including vote.org. In some places, if you’ve missed your deadline to register to vote, you’ll have to sit this election out. But in 19 states, you can register up until Election Day.

Where you’re registered will also determine your polling place. Vote.org can help point you in the right direction to look up where you need to go if you plan to vote in person.

Learn about early-voting options.

Each state has different early-voting options, and they can be a huge help for people who can’t get away from work or class on Tuesday.

Think about what you need for Election Day.

Find out what voting machines will be used if you need accommodations. The Help America Vote Act requires at least one accessible voting machine at each polling place that allows a voter with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently.

In some states, you may need to bring along a photo ID (though there’s often still a process to fill out a provisional ballot if you don’t have it, where your vote will be counted after your eligibility is determined). Take a look in advance if your state requires ID and how that may impact you before you get to the polling place.

Prepare for a potentially long line by going to the bathroom before getting there and consider bringing water, snacks, and even a lawn chair. Bonus: Pizza to the Polls will deliver free food to everyone waiting if you report a long line.

Share your plans.

Senecal and the League of Women Voters encourage people to share their voting plan because it helps remind their friends and family to also vote. Tweet it, text it, whatever.

And here’s a tip if you’re still deciding what time to head to the polls: Senecal said they’re typically less busy 10 a.m.–11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m. if you want to beat the crowds.

Know your rights.

If you’re in line to vote and the polling place closes, you are still entitled to vote.

You have the right to vote free of racial bias or discrimination and free of voter intimidation. If the voting machine is broken, you can request an emergency paper ballot, and if there are any disputes about your registration status, you are allowed to vote by provisional ballot.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, older voters and people with disabilities must also be provided certain accommodations.

If you’re having trouble — like the polling place closes unexpectedly, the machines aren’t working, or they ask for ID where you don’t have to provide one — call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which is a national, nonpartisan coalition working to ensure all voters have an equal opportunity to vote.

Make a cheat sheet.

Cheat sheets are allowed if you need help remembering who to vote for, but some states have restrictions about bringing in your phone, so it’s safest to stick to paper.

Whether you bring a physical cheat sheet along or not, be sure to learn about the candidates as well as any ballot measures. Researching the candidates and where they stand on different issues in advance helps the actual voting process go faster. Vote411.org has information on more than 50,000 candidates on its website so you can prepare.

Get a ride.

Lyft is offering 50% off rides on Election Day. You just have to enter code VOTE22 in the app to get your discount on Nov. 8 during voting hours. You can also request a free ride at RideShare2Vote Aware.

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