Here at KNOCK.LA, we’re big fans of voting. We even wrote a whole guide about it. We know it’s not the only form of civic engagement one should practice, or, debatably, the most important, but as Sonia Renee Taylor puts it, “voting should be a tool in your toolbox.” And that’s especially important at the local level, and it’s especially important this year. (We know, they say that every election, but it’s true!) This year also brings a lot of changes: What’s happening due to COVID? And what’s going on with the USPS? Should I vote in person or by mail?
It’s never been more stressful to vote, but also never more important. These are strange times indeed, but when the times are strange, KNOCK.LA’s got you covered. (And to answer one of those questions above right off the bat: yes, you should vote by mail rather than in-person. Your community will thank you).
HOW TO VOTE
First things first, you must register to vote by October 19. Every registered voter will be sent a mail-in-ballot, but you obviously must be REGISTERED to get one! Ballots will be mailed the first week in October. Check your registration, update your registration, or register here. Ballots will be sent out countywide by October 5 at the latest.
Q: I’ve finished filling in my ballot. Am I done?
A: Make sure to properly read the instructions on your ballot, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, you must sign your ballot (that means signing the outside of the envelope). This is crucial to making sure your vote is counted. You’ll also need to be certain that your signature matches the one you used when you registered to vote.
Q: When should I drop off my ballot?
A: The earlier the better! But, as long as it’s postmarked by election day, November 3 (or dropped in a ballot box), your vote will be counted. And you can check out our progressive voter guide to start your research for the election.
Q: I’m worried I haven’t received my ballot yet. Is there a chance it won’t arrive?
A: Chances that won’t arrive are very low, but there’s a nifty tool this year where you can track the status of your ballot: wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov.
Q: My ballot arrived in English and I need a different language.
A: Call the Registrars Multilingual Services Section: 800–815–2666, + [option 3] to request a ballot in a non-English language. Additionally, if your ballot is damaged or lost (after checking the “Where’s my ballot” tool above if suspected missing), contact the registrar’s office at 800- 815–2666 + [option 2]. And remember, the the deadline to request a replacement ballot is October 27, so make sure you do so before then.
Q: Who can drop off a ballot?
A: This year, ANYONE can drop off a ballot (it used to have to be specifically the voter or the voter’s family). As long as the ballot is signed by the voter, anyone can drop it off.
Q: Where can I drop off my ballot?
A: You have three options:
1. In the mail (no postage necessary)
3. A ballot drop box. There will be 400 ballot drop boxes across the county, including all voting centers.
Q: But what about the USPS problems?
A: Anticipating delays, any ballot that arrives before November 17 (as long as it’s postmarked on election day) will be counted. Still, definitely drop off your ballot AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. No postage is required.
In Person Voting:
Q: Will there be in-person voting, despite COVID-19?
A: Yes. However, we STRONGLY recommend voting by mail to ensure the safety and health of our community. We are lucky that LA has taken great steps to ensure that voting by mail is as easy and effective as possible.
If for any reason you simply cannot vote by mail, however:
Q: Is there early voting?
There are both 11-day and five-day voting centers, and vote centers will start to open beginning on October 24. You can find your closest vote center at this link. The hours are 10 AM — 7 PM, and then 7 AM — 8 PM on Election Day (November 3).
Q: Ah, voting centers. Those are still a thing?
A: Yes. Like the primary, anyone in LA can vote at any voting center in the county. No more specific polling places!
Q: So should I just show up to the same place I went in March?
A: NOT NECESSARILY — due to COVID-19, there will be fewer voting centers in the general election, so make sure to check if your closest voting center is still going to be used. Again, check at this link.
Q: Will voting centers have same day voter registration?
A: Yes. There will be same day voter registration at all voting centers.
Q: So I should just wait and register there, right?
A: No. We recommend registering beforehand, to make the process in and out quicker and to stop lines from forming. It also takes like 30 seconds to register online. Just do it right now.
Q: Do we still have 11 days before election day to vote?
A: Yes. Voting start to open on October 24.
Q: Okay, so I didn’t listen and forgot to register to vote and it’s November 3 and I really want to cast my vote. Can I?
A: Yes. Life happens, and when it does, we’re lucky to live in California where you can register on election day and cast a provisional ballot.
HOW TO VOTE SAFELY:
If you plan on voting in person, make sure to take advantage of early voting — again, voting centers start opening on October 24 so be sure to go as early as you can to avoid the chance of crowds and lines on November 3.
If you do end up going to the polls on November 3, know that Congress actually does (surprisingly!) have a plan for you! Millions of dollars have been set aside for PPE, and cleaning supplies for voting centers, but on top of that, it’s on you to be respectful, maintain social distance, sanitizing regularly, and STAY HOME if you feel symptomatic. In that case, be sure to keep your mail-in ballot so you can still fill that out and drop it off in the mail or a voting center up until Election Day.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR VOTING IN NOVEMBER 2020:
- Vote early.
- Vote by mail.
- Vote early by mail.
- Sign your ballot.
- Election day is November 3. If you can’t vote by mail, voting centers open in LA starting on October 24.
- Stay vigilant (track your ballot, follow instructions on your ballot, return your ballot as early as possible)
- Stay safe (wear a mask, socially distance yourself from other voters)
- Do your research.
- Vote Early!! By mail!!
But perhaps most importantly, take some time to volunteer for a local or federal candidate you are excited about. Voting is important, but it is only a small part of strengthening (or, um, salvaging) our democracy. Getting involved in a campaign is a great step in becoming more active in your community, as you’ll meet neighbors and organizers working on all kinds of critical issues.
LA is a community of passionate individuals working together to make change, and while the scariest part may be diving into the work, you’ll be so glad you did (especially since you’ve made it this far in this article about electoralism).
It may take a bit of effort to really plug in, but after just a short time being engaged, you won’t even think about your daily involvement in local politics — cyberbullying the mayor, donating to mutual aid funds, organizing your fellow tenants into a neighborhood pod, doing a water bottle dropoff to an encampment — it’s all just a part of your everyday life in LA.
And then, all of a sudden, it’s election day, and as you look through the massive California ballot, you’ll find your choices aren’t as blind as they once were. Suddenly you’re the type of person who says things like: she’s the one running that progressive challenger campaign with the kickass community safety policy! Or: that guy’s a former cop who deliberately blocked the ending qualified immunity bill and he needs to go. Look at you! Take it from me, it’ll happen quicker than you think.
At time of publishing, there’s about a month until election day. So, now that you know how to vote, what will you be doing until then?
KNOCK.LA is a project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.
Want to learn more about your 2020 election ballot? Check out KNOCK.LA’s Voter Guide, which breaks down propositions and candidate platforms for over 120 races in and around LA County.