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NUVotes

Northwestern's comprehensive 50-state voter-registration hub

2020 Presidential Election Education Guide

The 2020 General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 3rd, for President, most of Congress, most state legislators, and more. Use this guide to learn more about the upcoming election and how you can participate.

  • About the Election

    Why Should I Vote? Where Should I Vote?

  • How Do I Register & Vote?

    FAQs About Registration & Voting in All 50 States

  • When Are the Deadlines?

    Registration & Absentee Voting Deadlines by State

  • How Can I Make an Informed Decision?

    What's On My Ballot? How Do I Decide?

What’s This Election About?

On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, General Elections will be held in every state. Voters will choose the President and Vice President, all 435 members of the US House of Representatives, 35 US Senators, 11 governors, and state legislators in 44 states, in addition to countless other state and local officials, and changes to state and local laws. Learn more about the upcoming election, including what these elected officials do, how the presidential election process works, and what’s at stake state by state in this 2020 Election Guide.

 

Why Should I Vote?

With control of the White House, Congress, state legislatures, and so many local and national issues at stake, your vote matters. Why?

Voting determines who has the power to make decisions that affect your life. Whatever you care about – policing, education, jobs, housing, immigration, climate change – who gets elected at the national and local level shapes the policies that are pursued. Young people often have the greatest stake in the outcomes of those decisions far into the future.

Voting is a way to translate your passions into action. Voting to select your elected officials makes it more likely they will represent you. It communicates your interests and priorities, and that you are paying attention and will hold them accountable.

Voting is a right that people fought and even died for, but that not everyone has or exercises. Yet many elections are decided by a very small number of votes. There are many ways to be civically engaged, but if you have the right, voting is an important place to start.

 

Where Should I Vote? Should I Vote In Illinois or In My Home State?

That’s completely up to you! As a student, you have the legal right to register and vote at either your campus address or your permanent address. You might want to weigh:

  • The place you most consider to be ‘home’ right now. For instance, where you feel more connected to your community, where you are more informed about local issues or follow local news and politics, or where you want to have a say in policy or in who represents you in elected office. This may change during the course of your college career.
  • How you prefer to vote. If you want to vote at a different address from where you are living, you will either need to return there to vote (during early voting or on Election Day), or request, receive, and return an absentee ballot to vote by mail. If you want to vote from the same address where you are living, you can vote in person (during early voting or on Election Day), at a polling place near you, or you can vote by mail.
  • Where you feel your vote will make the greatest impact. For instance, where you believe national or local elections may be most competitive.

COVID-19 Alert: Note that your options may be different this year if you do not have a campus address, or if you have temporarily relocated due to COVID-19. Depending on your current circumstance, you also might want to consider how you will vote if you need to relocate again. For instance, if you are requesting an absentee ballot to vote by mail, choose an address that you’re confident you can access mail from in any scenario. Still unclear on your options? Check out Campus Vote Project’s detailed guidance for student voters during COVID-19.

How Do I Register & Vote?

In Illinois
In Other States

Registering and Voting in Illinois

Registering

Who can register and vote in Illinois?

You can vote in Illinois if you are U.S citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, a resident of Illinois for at least 30 days before Election Day, and not in jail for a felony conviction. In order to vote, you first must be registered at an Illinois address.

How do I know if or where I’m registered?

You can check your registration status online through our online Voter Registration Tool, or through your local election authority. Check the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois.

What if my election authority says I’m not registered?

If you registered recently, it often takes several weeks for registration requests to be processed. If you cannot confirm your registration from a previous year, simply re-register.

If you have concerns about your registration, contact your local election authority. For Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), e-mail Voter.Reg@cookcountyil.gov or call (312)603-0906. For Chicago, e-mail cboe@chicagoelections.gov or call (312)269-7900.

If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you still have the option to register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

 

How can I register to vote?

In Illinois, you can register to vote in advance:

Online (Requires an IL Drivers License or State ID) By October 18th
By Mail (Need Support with Printing & Mailing?) By October 6th (Postmarked)

 

If you have passed these deadlines, it is not too late! You can register and vote at the same time, during early voting or on Election Day. (During COVID-19, if you are voting in person, we recommend voting early, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day.)

How often do I need to register?

Registration typically does not expire. However, you must update your registration if your address, name, or signature has changed. If you don’t vote for several years, or your county sends you election mail that gets returned, you may be removed from the voter rolls, so it’s always a good idea to check to make sure your registration is current.

How can I change or update my registration with my current address?

To change or update your voter registration, simply re-register. In the registration form, there will be a space to list your previous registration address (or as much as you can remember). You may temporarily be registered in both places until you are removed from the voter rolls at your previous address. That’s okay; just be sure not to vote or request a ballot in both places!

Is it too late to register to vote?

No. If you haven’t registered yet, it is not too late!

Grace Period Registration & Voting
Grace Period Registration allows you to register and vote at the same time, during the Early Voting period up to the day before the election. Note that if you choose Grace Period Registration, you must cast your ballot immediately after registering.

If you live in Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), you can register and vote at the Evanston Civic Center (2100 Ridge Ave, Room G300) during the following dates and times:

October 19th – November 2nd
Monday–Friday 8:30am–7pm
Saturday & Sunday 9am–5pm

If you live in Chicago, you can register and vote at any of 51 locations throughout the city, during comparable dates and times. See Early Voting Locations & Hours for Chicago Residents.

To register to vote through Grace Period Registration, you must present TWO forms of ID. You will be required to cast your ballot immediately after registering.

Election Day Registration & Voting
You can also register to vote on Election Day at your polling place with TWO forms of ID. However, during COVID-19, if you are voting in person, we recommend voting early, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day.

What identification do I need to register?

To register to vote in person, you must present TWO forms of ID:

  1. Something that proves your identity: A Wildcard, driver’s license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, or social security card
  2. Something that shows your current address: Postmarked mail, a utility bill, a bank or credit card statement, a pay stub, a lease or rental contract, or in Evanston, a printout from CAESAR that shows your local address (CAESAR > Main Menu > Personal Profile > My Addresses)

To register to vote online, you must provide an IL driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. To register to vote by mail, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number only. If you register to vote by mail, you may be required to show ID (proof of identity and proof of address) the first time you vote or request or return your ballot. For help getting the IDs you need to register, see VoteRiders.

 

I am currently registered at my permanent address. Can I change my registration to my campus address?

Yes. Students have a legal right to register and vote at either their permanent address or their campus address.

Voting

Where do I vote? Where is my polling place? When are the polls open?

You have the option to either vote early or vote on Election Day. During COVID-19, if you are voting in person, we recommend voting early, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day.

To vote on Election Day (Tuesday, November 3rd), you must go to your assigned polling place.

To find your polling place, use the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois.

If you live on north campus, your assigned polling place is the Noyes Cultural Arts Center (927 Noyes St). If you live on south campus, your assigned polling place is the Hilton Garden Inn (1818 Maple).

Note that polling places are always subject to change, even on short notice, so be sure to double check the location using the search tools above just before you go to vote.

On Election Day, all polling places are open from 6 AM to 7 PM.

Can I vote early? When and where can I vote early?

Yes. During COVID-19, if you are voting in person, we recommend voting early, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day.

If you live in Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), you can vote at the Evanston Civic Center (2100 Ridge Ave, Room G300) during the following dates and times:

October 19th – November 2nd
Monday–Friday 8:30am–7pm
Saturday & Sunday 9am–5pm

If you live in Chicago, you can early vote at any of 51 locations throughout the city, during comparable dates and times. See Early Voting Locations & Hours for Chicago Residents.

If you are registered in another county in Illinois, see Early Voting Locations & Hours by County (be sure to choose 2020 General Election).

Can I vote by mail? How can I request a vote-by-mail ballot?

Yes. All Illinois voters can choose to vote by mail. This is the safest way to vote during COVID-19.

Request a Vote By Mail Ballot for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois. If you are not yet registered to vote in Illinois, you can request a Vote by Mail Ballot on Illinois’ online or mail-in Voter Registration Forms. You must request a Vote by Mail Ballot by October 29th, though you are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible to make sure you receive your ballot on time. Especially during COVID-19, be sure to have your ballot sent to an address that you’re confident you can access mail from in any scenario.

Once you submit your request, you will be mailed a paper ballot to the address you choose, to complete, sign, and deliver or mail back in the enclosed return envelope.

When will I receive my vote-by-mail ballot? How can I check on the status of my vote-by-mail ballot? What if I don’t receive my vote-by-mail ballot?

Illinois Vote by Mail Ballots will begin being mailed to voters starting on September 24th, and then on an ongoing basis as requests are processed, which can take several weeks.

If you have requested a Vote by Mail Ballot but have not yet received one, and it is past that timeline, you may be able to check on the status of your ballot online. Enter your address into the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County) or Chicago. Elsewhere in Illinois, contact your local election authority to check on the status of your ballot request.

If you live on campus, note that mail can sometimes take a bit longer to make its way through the campus mail system. Remember to check your mailbox regularly. You also might want to check with staff in the mail room and at the package center.

If you run into trouble (e.g. your local election authority did not receive your ballot request, or there was a problem with it, or they mailed you a ballot but you did not receive it), your local election authority should be able to help you identify some alternative options. There may still be time to submit a new request, especially if you can do so via phone, fax, or email. Or you still have the option to vote in person, during early voting or on Election Day.

How can I return my vote-by-mail ballot?

You can return your completed ballot by mail, or if you are voting in Evanston, Chicago, or elsewhere in suburban Cook County, you can deliver your ballot to special secure ballot drop boxes available at all early voting sites.

If you are voting in Evanston or elsewhere in suburban Cook County, you can deliver your ballot to the drop box at the Evanston Civic Center (2100 Ridge Ave, Room G300) during early voting (October 19th – November 2nd, Monday–Friday 8:30am–7pm, Saturday–Sunday 9am–5pm), or to any of the 50+ ballot drop boxes in Suburban Cook County.

If you are voting in Chicago, you can deliver your ballot to any of the 50+ ballot drop boxes in Chicago during early voting (October 14th – November 2nd, Monday–Friday 8:30am–7pm, Saturday–Sunday 9am–5pm).

For other counties, or to return your ballot via mail, simply drop your stamped or postage-paid envelope in the the nearest USPS mailbox. On the Evanston Campus, mailboxes are available on the corners of Colfax and Sheridan, Foster and Sheridan, and Hinman and Sheridan. See our mailing tips to find mailbox and post office locations near you, guidance if you are mailing close to the deadline, and more. Your ballot must be postmarked no later than Election Day, but you are encouraged to return your ballot as soon as you are able.

NU Votes can help with stamps, mailing, or other requirements such as copies of IDs at any of our in-person voter services stations. NU Votes Dropboxes are not intended for ballot return.

What identification do I need to vote? What can I take with me into the voting booth?

If you registered to vote by mail, and are voting for the first time at your current registration address, you may be required to show ID (including proof of identity and proof of address) to vote. (This is especially true if you did not include an Illinois driver’s license or state ID number or Social Security Number on your registration form.) If you are registering during Early Voting or on Election Day, you must bring TWO forms of ID. Otherwise, in Illinois, you are NOT required to show ID to vote. However, we recommend bringing a Wildcard or other photo ID just in case. For help getting the IDs you need to vote, see VoteRiders.

You are allowed to bring notes or sample ballots with you into the voting booth and to look up information on your phone. However, in Illinois, you may NOT take any photos of your ballot or inside the polling place.

What if I don’t have my Voter Registration Card?

You do NOT need your Voter Registration Card to vote. However, you must be registered. Make sure to verify your registration status online through our online Voter Registration Tool, or through your local election authority. Check the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you still have the option to register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

How can I receive voting reminders?

If you use any of our online voter services tools, Vote.org will automatically send important election information, deadlines, and voting reminders via email and text. NU Votes may send occasional email updates as well. (You can unsubscribe from these at any time.) To sign up to receive voting reminders separately, use our Election Reminders tool.

 

How can I make sure my ballot is counted?

Make sure to register to vote or check or update your registration in advance if you are able.

If you are voting by mail, request your ballot well in advance of the deadline (typically at least one month prior to Election Day), and check to make sure your request was received and your ballot is on the way. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully on your ballot request form as well as on the ballot and ballot envelope. Complete all fields, and review the instructions for any additional materials needed, such as an ID copy or witness or notary signature. Make sure to sign in all places required, and make sure your signature matches the signature on file with your voter registration. Finally, return your ballot well in advance of your state’s deadline (typically, at least one week before the deadline).

You may be able to check online to confirm that your ballot was received and will be counted. Enter your address into the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County) or or Chicago. Elsewhere in Illinois, you can contact your local election authority directly via phone or email.

If you are voting in person, be sure to bring proper IDs (including proof of identity and proof of address). Make sure your signature matches the signature on file with your voter registration. Follow the instructions carefully as you complete and submit your ballot.

What if I encounter a problem at the polls?

If you or others encounter issues at a polling place or barriers to voting, contact the National Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. If your eligibility to vote is challenged, you should still be able to vote a provisional ballot, which will be reviewed after Election Day to determine if your vote can still be counted.

Voting During COVID-19

How has voting in Illinois changed due to COVID-19?

Illinois, Chicago, and Cook County have made some proactive changes to support safe elections during COVID-19. Illinois integrated mail ballot requests into registration forms, automatically mailed ballot request forms to residents who have voted in recent elections, and expanded early voting hours. Some jurisdictions, including Chicago and Cook County, are offering postage-paid mailing for ballot requests and ballots and adding ballot dropboxes. Others are offering additional options such as curbside voting. Illinois also made Election Day a state holiday.

 

How can I vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?

You might want to consider voting by mail, as it is generally contactless.

If you are voting in person, you might want to consider voting early, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day. Register in advance and research your ballot ahead of time to minimize your time in the polling place. Whenever you vote, you should be sure to wear a mask, remain 6 feet apart from others, and wash your hands before and after you vote.

Registering and Voting in Other States

Registering

Who can register and vote in my state?

You are eligible to vote if you are a U.S. citizen and will be at least 18 years old on Election Day. You must be a resident of your state (sometimes for at least 30 days prior to Election Day) and meet your state’s requirements. Some states have restrictions on voting for people with felony convictions or who are mentally incapacitated. Learn more about your state’s requirements. In order to vote, you first must be registered.

How do I know if or where I’m registered?

You can check your registration status online through our online Voter Registration Tool, or through your local election authority. Enter your state, then at the bottom of the next page, click ‘State Lookup Tools’ and look for a link next to ‘Am I Registered?’

What if my election authority says I’m not registered?

If you registered recently, it often takes several weeks for registration requests to be processed. If you cannot confirm your registration from a previous year, simply re-register.

If you have concerns about your registration, contact your local election authority. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you may still have time to register to vote in your state; or if you are in the local area, you can register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

How can I register to vote?

First, make sure there is still time to register before your state’s deadline. Some states close registration as much as 30 days in advance of an election, while others will allow you to register through Election Day. In some states, deadlines may vary depending on whether you are registering online, by mail, or in person. To view the registration deadlines for your state, see State Election Dates & Deadlines.

To register or update your registration in any state, use our online Voter Registration Tool.

In most states, registration can be done entirely online if you have an in-state driver’s license or state ID number. In some cases, you may need to print and mail a form to complete your registration. NU Votes can help with printing and mailing or other requirements. In most states, you can also register in person at your local election office.

How often do I need to register?

Registration typically does not expire. However, you must update your registration if your address, name, or signature has changed. If you don’t vote for several years, or your county sends you election mail that gets returned, you may be removed from the voter rolls, so it’s always a good idea to check to make sure your registration is current.

How can I change or update my registration with my current address?

To change or update your voter registration, simply re-register. In the registration form, there will be a space to list your previous registration address (or as much as you can remember). You may temporarily be registered in both places until you are removed from the voter rolls at your previous address. That’s okay; just be sure not to vote or request a ballot in both places!

What identification do I need to register?

If you are registering online or by mail, most states will request an in-state driver’s license or state ID number (do not use an out-of-state ID number), OR if you do not have one, the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Some states may request or require your full Social Security Number, or may request or require both a driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

If you are registering in person, or if you are voting for the first time after registering by mail, you may be required to show ID, including something that proves your identity (a driver’s license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, or social security card) and something that shows your current address (postmarked mail, a utility bill, a bank or credit card statement, a pay stub, a lease or rental contract, etc.).

For help getting the IDs you need to register, see VoteRiders.

I am currently registered at my campus address. Can I change my registration to my permanent address?

Yes. Students have a legal right to register and vote at either their permanent address or their campus address.

What if I am from a U.S. territory?

If you are a U.S. citizen, living in the U.S. to attend school, you have the option to register and vote at your campus address in Illinois or your permanent address in your territory. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should register and vote in your territory.

Unfortunately, our standard forms and online tools will not work for U.S. territories, and many of the 50-states resources linked in this guide will not contain information specific to your territory. You can find upcoming election dates and deadlines and more information about how to register and vote in your territory in the US Vote Foundation’s State Voting Requirements & Information resource. You can also find links there to your territory’s board of elections website, where you can access registration and absentee ballot request forms. NU Votes can help with form completion, printing and mailing, or other questions.

What if I am studying abroad or out of the country? What if I am a military or overseas voter?

If you are a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S. (including students studying abroad) or an active duty service member, military spouse or dependent, there are special forms you should use. You can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to register and request your absentee ballot for your voting residence in any U.S. state or territory. In addition, if you request but do not receive your absentee ballot in time to return it by the appropriate deadline, you can vote using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAP) as a backup ballot. Learn more about who is eligible and how to determine your voting residence, and get answers to FAQs specific to your situation through the Federal Voting Assistance Program. NU Votes can help with form completion, printing and mailing, or other questions.

Voting

Where do I vote? Where is my polling place? When are the polls open?

To find your polling place, use the Polling Place Locator for your state. The location and hours of your polling place might vary depending on whether you are voting early or on Election Day.

To vote on Election Day (Tuesday, November 3rd), you must go to your assigned polling place. Polling places generally open between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and close between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. For the specific hours for your state, see Polling Place Hours by State.

Note that polling places are always subject to change, even on short notice, so be sure to double check the location just before you go to vote.

Can I vote early?

In most states, yes. Most states allow early voting (or in-person absentee voting), from 3 days up to 30 or even 45 days prior to each election. To view early voting options for your state, see this Early Voting Calendar by StateDuring COVID-19, if you are voting in person, we recommend voting early if your state allows it, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day.

Can I vote by mail?

In most states, yes. All states allow some form of vote by mail or absentee voting. During COVID-19, many states are expanding vote by mail options. A few states conduct their elections entirely by mail for all voters. Many states allow any voter to choose to vote by mail for any reason. Some states require voters to provide an excuse to vote absentee. There will always be an excuse applicable to students living out of state (such as being a student by occupation, temporarily living or traveling outside the jurisdiction on Election Day, or being otherwise unavoidably absent or unable to make it to the polling place on Election Day). Unfortunately, concern about COVID-19 is not a valid excuse to vote by mail in every state.

In most states, voters must request an absentee ballot for each election. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list; once a voter is added to this list, they will receive an absentee ballot for each election automatically.

To view absentee voting or vote by mail options for your state, including any changes due to COVID-19, see Absentee Ballot Rules by State. During COVID-19, we recommend voting by mail if your state allows it, as this is the safest way to vote.

How do I request an absentee ballot?

First, make sure there is still time to request an absentee ballot before your state’s deadline. Most states recommend submitting your absentee ballot request at least one month prior to the election. Some states will continue to accept absentee ballot requests one week prior or sometimes even less, though those deadlines do not always allow enough time to request, receive, and return your ballot. To view the ballot request deadline for your state, see State Election Dates & Deadlines.

To request an absentee ballot for any state, use our online Absentee Ballot Request Tool

In some states, ballot requests can be submitted entirely online. However, in most states, you will need to print, complete, sign, and mail a form to complete the process. NU Votes can help with printing and mailing or other requirements, such as copies of IDs or witness or notary services. Ballot requests can also be submitted in person, and sometimes by phone, fax, or email.

You should submit your request as early as possible to receive your ballot on time. If it is less than 30 days before Election Day, call your local election office and ask if you can submit your request by phone, fax, or email. Especially during COVID-19, be sure to have your ballot sent to an address that you’re confident you can access mail from in any scenario.

Once you submit your request, you will be mailed a paper ballot to the address you choose, to complete, sign, and return. In some cases, you may be able to download a ballot, or receive one via fax or email.

Note that some states that vote entirely by mail or have expanded vote by mail due to COVID-19 are automatically mailing ballots to all registered voters. In these states, if you are already registered to vote at your current address, and that is where you want your ballot to be mailed, you will not need to submit a request form. If you have recently registered or updated your registration, or you want your ballot to be mailed to a different address, you will still need to submit a request form. Review the Absentee Ballot Rules for your state to determine whether you need to submit a request form.

When will I receive my absentee ballot? How can I check on the status of my absentee ballot? What if I don't receive my absentee ballot?

Absentee ballots are typically mailed in late September or early October, most commonly 30–45 days before Election Day, and then on an ongoing basis as requests are processed, which can take several weeks. To check your state’s timeline, see When States Mail Absentee Ballots.

If you have requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received one, and it is past that timeline, contact your local election authority to confirm that they received your absentee ballot application and verify there were no errors in processing.

Some states will allow you to track your absentee ballot online. At this State Voting Information site, enter your state, then at the bottom of the next page, click ‘State Lookup Tools,’ and look for a link next to ‘Where Is My Ballot?.’ If your state does not offer an online tool, find the contact information for your local election authority and contact them directly via phone or email.

If you live on campus, note that mail can sometimes take a bit longer to make its way through the campus mail system. Remember to check your mailbox regularly. You also might want to check with staff in the mail room and at the package center.

If you run into trouble (e.g. your local election authority did not receive your ballot request, or there was a problem with it, or they mailed you a ballot but you did not receive it), your local election authority should be able to help you identify some alternative options, which will vary by state. There may still be time to submit a new request, especially if you can do so via phone, fax, or email. Or you may be able to vote in person, during early voting or on Election Day, if that is an option for you. Or if you are in the local area, you can register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

How can I change the address where my absentee ballot is sent?

If you requested an absentee ballot to be sent to one address, but have since relocated or need your ballot to be sent to a different address, contact your local election authority. They might be able to update the address on your ballot request if your ballot has not yet been sent, or they might have you submit a new request. This will typically still be faster than trying to have your ballot forwarded to you from your previous address. (Also note that ballots cannot be forwarded; if you are having someone mail you your ballot at another address, it must be sent in a new outer envelope with stamps.)

How do I return my absentee ballot? What if my ballot requires an ID copy, witness or notary?

Completed absentee ballots can typically be returned by mail or in person, or sometimes in special ballot drop boxes. Some states may allow ballots to be returned by fax or email. Your ballot should provide instructions on how, where, and when to return it.

To return your absentee ballot via mail, simply drop your stamped or postage-paid envelope in the nearest USPS mailbox. On the Evanston Campus, mailboxes are available on the corners of Colfax and Sheridan, Foster and Sheridan, and Hinman and Sheridan. See our mailing tips to find mailbox and post office locations near you, guidance if you are mailing close to the deadline, and more.

In most states, absentee ballots must be received by the time polls close on Election Day; however, some states may have slightly earlier deadlines, and some states may continue to accept absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. To view the absentee ballot deadlines for your state, see State Election Dates & Deadlines. You are encouraged to return your ballot at least one week prior to Election Day to ensure it is received on time.

NU Votes can help with stamps, mailing, or other requirements, such as copies of IDs or witness or notary services, at any of our in-person voter services stations. NU Votes Dropboxes are not intended for ballot return.

What identification do I need to vote? What can I take with me into the voting booth?

Most states request or require some form of ID in order to vote, either for all voters, or only those who registered by mail and are voting for the first time at their current registration address. As a result, while it may not be required, we recommend bringing ID (including a current photo ID and proof of address) when you go to vote. For the specific rules for your state, see Voter ID Requirements by State. For help getting the IDs you need to vote, see VoteRiders.

As a general rule, you are allowed to bring notes or sample ballots with you into the voting booth and to look up information on your phone. However, in some states, you are NOT allowed to take photos of your ballot or inside the polling place.

What if I don’t have my Voter Registration Card?

You do NOT need your Voter Registration Card to vote. However, you must be registered. Make sure to verify your registration status online through our online Voter Registration Tool, or through your local election authority. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you may still have time to register to vote in your state; or if you are in the local area, you can register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

How can I receive voting reminders?

If you use any of our online voter services tools, Vote.org will automatically send important election information, deadlines, and voting reminders via email and text. NU Votes may send occasional email updates as well. (You can unsubscribe from these at any time.) To sign up to receive voting reminders separately, use our Election Reminders tool.

How can I make sure my ballot is counted?

First, make sure to register to vote or check or update your registration well in advance of your state’s deadline.

If you are voting by mail, request your ballot well in advance of your state’s deadline (typically at least one month prior to Election Day), and check to make sure your request was received and your ballot is on the way. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully on your ballot request form as well as on the ballot and ballot envelope. Complete all fields, and review the instructions for any additional materials needed, such as an ID copy or witness or notary signature. Make sure to sign in all places required, and make sure your signature matches the signature on file with your voter registration. Finally, return your ballot well in advance of your state’s deadline (typically, at least one week before the deadline).

In some states, you can check online to confirm that your ballot was received and will be counted. At this State Voting Information site, enter your state, then at the bottom of the next page, click ‘State Lookup Tools’ and look for a link next to ‘Where Is My Ballot?’ or ‘Has My Ballot Been Counted?.’ If your state does not offer an online tool, you can contact your local election authority directly via phone or email.

If you are voting in person, be sure to bring proper IDs (including proof of identity and proof of address). Make sure your signature matches the signature on file with your voter registration. Follow the instructions carefully as you complete and submit your ballot.

What if I encounter a problem at the polls?

If you or others encounter issues at a polling place or barriers to voting, contact the National Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. If your voter registration cannot be found or your eligibility to vote is challenged, you should still be able to vote a provisional ballot, which will be reviewed after Election Day to determine if your vote can still be counted.

 

Voting During COVID-19

How has voting in my state changed due to COVID-19?

Registration and voting deadlines and procedures may have changed due to COVID-19. For instance, some states are automatically mailing absentee ballots or ballot applications to registered voters. Some states have extended voter registration or ballot request or return deadlines, and/or early voting days or hours. Some states are closing or moving polling places or offering additional options such as curbside voting.

Vote.org is tracking state-by-state election changes due to COVID-19; however, these changes are still ongoing, so be sure to check back or check your state site frequently.

How can I vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?

You might want to consider voting by mail if you have the option, as it is generally contactless.

If you are voting in person, you might want to consider voting early if you have the option, to avoid lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day. Research your ballot ahead of time to minimize your time in the polling place. Whenever you vote, you should be sure to wear a mask, remain 6 feet apart from others, and wash your hands before and after you vote.

Hover over your state to view voter registration deadlines and absentee ballot request and return deadlines. Click on your state for more detailed information. Visit your state’s board of elections website to confirm these deadlines and access forms and more information.

 

State Voter Registration Deadlines Closing!
Click on your state to view your state’s registration deadline. If it is past your state’s deadline, contact NU Votes for advice on how to proceed.
Registration Closed: AK, AR, AZ, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV*, NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV
Closing This Week: Registration must be completed online or mail-in forms received or postmarked (depending on the state) by:
Mon 10/19: AL, CA, IA*, ME, MI, PA, SD, WY  / Wed 10/21: NH / Fri 10/23: UT / Sat 10/24: MA
* Online registration still available with a drivers license or state ID from the same state where you are registering
You can still register and vote at the same time, in person, during early voting or on Election Day
State Absentee Ballot Request Deadlines Closing!
Click on your state to view your state’s ballot request deadline. For all ballot requests, contact your local election officials about whether you can submit your request by phone or email. If it is past your state’s deadline, contact NU Votes for advice on how to proceed.
Ballot Requests Closed: RI
Closing This Week: Ballot request forms must be completed online or mail-in forms received by:
Tuesday 10/20: MD, NM, NV / Wed 10/21: MO / Thurs 10/22: IN / Fri 10/23: AZ, ID, NE, TX, VA / Sat 10/24: AK, FL, IA, SC

Source: vote.org

What’s On My Ballot? How Do I Decide?

In Illinois
In Other States

Educating Yourself — Illinois

What's on my ballot?

Illinois voters will choose a President and Vice President, U.S. Senator and Representatives, State Senators and Representatives, city and county officials, and state and county judges. They will also vote on the proposed Fair Tax Amendment to the Illinois Constitution (on whether to allow varying income-tax rates based on income levels). In Chicago, there are also several opinion questions on the regulation of assault weapons and ammunition, expanding broadband internet service, and priorities in city development.

Sample ballots will be available by the end of September. To view your sample ballot, enter your address into the the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County) or Chicago.

Or use a resource like BallotReady or Ballotpedia to view a sample ballot and research detailed, nonpartisan information on candidate profiles and positions at the same time.

How can I educate myself? How do I decide who to vote for?

There are lots of great resources that help you preview what’s on your ballot and research detailed, nonpartisan information on each candidate’s profiles and positions. Here are some of our favorites:

  • BallotReady
    Enter your address and go to Research Ballot in the Election Center. You’ll be able to preview each office and question on your ballot. You’ll see all the candidates running for each office,  and can learn about their backgrounds, where they stand on key issues, endorsements received, and more. For ballot measures, you can review the arguments for and against. Then you can save your selections and print or email your ballot to yourself to bring with you to vote.
  • Ballotpedia
    Enter your address and choose the election. You’ll be able to preview each office and question on your ballot and the candidates running for each office. Ballotpedia sometimes includes more information on candidates, especially those who have previously served in national elected office, including legislation supported or votes on key issues, past election results, analyses of campaign donations, voting records, personal gains from serving in office, and more. You cannot save your selections, but you can record them in another way to bring with you vote.
  • WeVote
    WeVote allows you to choose issues you care about, values you hold, and organizations and people you trust. Then you can see a personal score for each candidate on your ballot, based on their connection to those issues and values and endorsements they’ve received from your trusted sources. You can save your choices, and share them with friends and family.

Here are some additional ways you can educate yourself and decide who to vote for:

  • Check out these non-partisan student-oriented voter guides on the Presidential race and key Senate and Governor’s races from the Campus Elections Engagement Project.
  • If you’re not sure where you fall on the political spectrum or whether you align with a particular party, try taking a quiz. The Pew Research Center Political Typology Quiz is one popular one.
  • Review candidates’ websites and watch candidate debates and forums to hear what the candidates themselves have to say.
  • Check your favorite local news media – they typically have candidates complete questionnaires on where they stand on key issues, and editorial boards often make endorsements. Locally, check out the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune.
  • If there is an issue you care about, check whether national or local advocacy organizations are endorsing or supporting candidates.
  • If you identify with a political party or national or local political organization, they typically endorse or support a slate of candidates.
  • If you are voting to elect or retain judges, local bar associations often make recommendations. Locally, check out VoteforJudges.
Do I have to vote for every office on the ballot?

No! If you don’t feel sufficiently informed about a particular office, set of candidates, or issue, or you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates, you can choose to leave that category blank. This does not invalidate your ballot – your other selections will still be counted.

How can I get more involved?

To get further involved this election season, you can:

  • Double or triple your vote (or more) by getting friends in your network to commit to vote as well. Help them make their voting plan, and send them reminders to make sure they follow through.
  • Volunteer for a candidate’s campaign, on behalf of a political party, issue advocacy organization, or nonpartisan voter engagement organization. Contacting voters via phone and text and sending postcards with voting reminders can all be done remotely.
  • Work the polls! Typically, many poll workers are retirees who are at higher risk for COVID-19, so there is an especially high need this year for young, healthy people to work at polling places on Election Day. In Illinois, this paid position is open to U.S. citizens, 16 or older, who have lived in Illinois for at least 30 days prior to Election Day. Review the qualifications and pay, and apply now to work as an Election Judge at a polling place in Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County) or Chicago. For elsewhere in Illinois, visit WorkElections.com.

You can also explore additional opportunities for civic engagement beyond voting.

In future election seasons, consider becoming an NU Votes Ambassador. Join our mailing list to learn about future opportunities (select Interested in NU Votes).

How can I participate in elections if I’m not eligible to vote?

Great question! There are many ways to be civically engaged beyond voting. You might also want to learn more about the programs and services offered by the Center for Civic Engagement.

Sources & Additional Resources

Evanston City Clerk – Registration & Voting Information (Evanston)
Cook County Clerk – Registration & Voting Information (Suburban Cook County)
Chicago Board of Elections – Registration & Voting Information (Chicago)
Illinois State Board of Elections – Registration & Voting Information (Illinois)
BallotReady – Sample Ballots & Voter Guides (All 50 States)
Ballotpedia – Election & Voting Information, Sample Ballots & Voter Guides (All 50 States)
Vote411.orgSample Ballots & Voter Guides (All 50 States)
Vote.org – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)
National Association of Secretaries of State – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)
National Conference of State Legislators – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)
US Vote Foundation – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)

Other Questions?

The NU Votes staff and student team is standing by to help! Email nuvotes@northwestern.edu or text us at 847-461-9015. We will be available for live support Monday–Friday 2pm–6pm CDT and will reply as soon as possible (within 24 hours) outside of those hours. Or stop in to our drop-in hours via Zoom or in person at one of our Voter Services Stations.

If you have additional questions or need more specific guidance, contact your local election authority.

Educating Yourself – Other States

What's on my ballot?

Voters in every state will choose the President and Vice President and all members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Depending on your state, you might also be voting for a U.S. Senator, Governor, and State Senators and Representatives, in addition to countless other state and local officials and proposed changes to state and local laws.

You can typically view a sample ballot through your local election authority. Enter your state, then at the bottom of the next page, click ‘State Lookup Tools’ and look for a link next to ‘Can I View My Sample Ballot?.’

Or use a resource like BallotReady or Ballotpedia to view a sample ballot and research detailed, nonpartisan information on candidate profiles and positions at the same time.

How can I educate myself? How do I decide who to vote for?

There are lots of great resources that help you preview what’s on your ballot and research detailed, nonpartisan information on each candidate’s profiles and positions. Here are some of our favorites:

  • BallotReady
    Enter your address and go to Research Ballot in the Election Center. You’ll be able to preview each office and question on your ballot. You’ll see all the candidates running for each office,  and can learn about their backgrounds, where they stand on key issues, endorsements received, and more. For ballot measures, you can review the arguments for and against. Then you can save your selections and print or email your ballot to yourself to bring with you to vote.
  • Ballotpedia
    Enter your address and choose the election. You’ll be able to preview each office and question on your ballot and the candidates running for each office. Ballotpedia sometimes includes more information on candidates, especially those who have previously served in national elected office, including legislation supported or votes on key issues, past election results, analyses of campaign donations, voting records, personal gains from serving in office, and more. You cannot save your selections, but you can record them in another way to bring with you vote.
  • WeVote
    WeVote allows you to choose issues you care about, values you hold, and organizations and people you trust. Then you can see a personal score for each candidate on your ballot, based on their connection to those issues and values and endorsements they’ve received from your trusted sources. You can save your choices, and share them with friends and family.

Here are some additional ways you can educate yourself and decide who to vote for:

  • Check out these non-partisan student-oriented voter guides on the Presidential race and key Senate and Governor’s races from the Campus Elections Engagement Project.
  • If you’re not sure where you fall on the political spectrum or whether you align with a particular party, try taking a quiz. The Pew Research Center Political Typology Quiz is one popular one.
  • Review candidates’ websites and watch candidate debates and forums to hear what the candidates themselves have to say.
  • Check your favorite local news media – they typically have candidates complete questionnaires on where they stand on key issues, and editorial boards often make endorsements.
  • If there is an issue you care about, check whether national or local advocacy organizations are endorsing or supporting candidates.
  • If you identify with a political party or national or local political organization, they typically endorse or support a slate of candidates.
  • If you are voting to elect or retain judges, local bar associations often make recommendations.
Do I have to vote for every office on the ballot?

No! If you don’t feel sufficiently informed about a particular office, set of candidates, or issue, or you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates, you can choose to leave that category blank. This does not invalidate your ballot – your other selections will still be counted.

How can I get more involved?

To get further involved this election season, you can:

  • Double or triple your vote (or more) by getting friends in your network to commit to vote as well. Help them make their voting plan, and send them reminders to make sure they follow through.
  • Volunteer for a candidate’s campaign, on behalf of a political party, issue advocacy organization, or nonpartisan voter engagement organization. Contacting voters via phone and text and sending postcards with voting reminders can all be done remotely.
  • Work the polls! Typically, many poll workers are retirees who are at higher risk for COVID-19, so there is an especially high need this year for young, healthy people to work at polling places on Election Day. Review the qualifications and pay, and apply to become a poll worker in your state at WorkElections.com.

You can also explore additional opportunities for civic engagement beyond voting.

In future election seasons, consider becoming an NU Votes Ambassador. Join our mailing list to learn about future opportunities (select Interested in NU Votes).

How can I participate in elections if I’m not eligible to vote?

Great question! There are many ways to be civically engaged beyond voting. You might also want to learn more about the programs and services offered by the Center for Civic Engagement.

Sources & Additional Resources

BallotReady – Sample Ballots & Voter Guides (All 50 States)
BallotpediaElection & Voting Information, Sample Ballots & Voter Guides (All 50 States)
Vote411Sample Ballots & Voter Guides (All 50 States)
Vote.org – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)
National Association of Secretaries of State – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)
National Conference of State Legislators – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)
US Vote Foundation – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)

Other Questions?

The NU Votes staff and student team is standing by to help! Email nuvotes@northwestern.edu or text us at 847-461-9015. We will be available for live support Monday–Friday 2pm–6pm CDT and will reply as soon as possible (within 24 hours) outside of those hours. Or stop in to our drop-in hours via Zoom or in person at one of our Voter Services Stations.

If you have additional questions or need more specific guidance, contact your local election authority.

Be A Part of Northwestern's Voting Culture.

Please note: The information here was compiled from publicly available sources in an effort to help provide students with non-partisan information that they may need to know in order to register correctly and vote in upcoming elections. Northwestern University does not endorse or oppose any candidate or organization in connection with this or any other political campaign or election. Students are responsible for working with their own local election officials to ensure their own correct registration and to verify local laws and policies about voting in their respective districts.