Election 2020

Everything You Need To Know About In-Person Voting

From CDC guidelines to state-by-state rules.

by Paulina Jayne Isaac
Young woman voting with a mask
LPETTET/E+/Getty Images

We're on the home stretch. Election Day is one week away and, if you plan to vote in person, it's crucial to know how this year will run differently. For starters, look up where to vote on Election Day, since polling places might have changed. You'll also likely be required to wear a mask as a COVID-19 precaution.

In total, over 66 million people have already voted, and 65% of eligible voters are expected to vote early, totaling around 150 million people, according to Reuters. If you're part of the 35% of eligible voters who'll cast their ballots in person, here’s everything to know before heading to the polls.

Where To Vote On Election Day?

First things first: You need to know where you're going. Some polling locations have changed due to COVID-19, and others have closed entirely. (Many voting rights experts, such as Stacey Abrams, view the latter as an example of voter suppression.) Look up your polling place before heading out.

What Are The Voting Hours?

It varies from state to state. In Arkansas, you can vote from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., however, in Indiana, the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Find your state’s hours here.

Do You Need An ID To Vote?

Not all states require identification, but 36 of them — including Georgia, Wisconsin, and Tennessee — have laws requesting or requiring voters to show identification at the polls. If your state does require identification and your current ID doesn’t have your address, you'll need to bring a document that shows your current information (e.g., a utility bill, bank statement, or pay stub). Check your state’s requirements here.

Do You Need A Mask To Vote?

Again, each state has its own rules. For example, in Pennsylvania, PPE is required to vote and the polls will be regularly sanitized. In Connecticut, poll workers are required to wear masks, but not voters. To be safe — literally and figuratively — the CDC recommends wearing a mask to vote, and also bringing your own black pen to prevent the spread of germs.

Can You Vote Early At The Elections Office?

Again, this depends on where you live. In Alaska, you can vote in person anywhere between 15 days to the day before the election. In New York, that window is limited from 10 days to 2 days before Election Day. Vote.org has a helpful state-by-state guide.

Can You Bring A Phone Into The Voting Booth?

In some states, yes. In North Carolina, for example, you can bring a phone as long as you’re not taking selfies. But in Texas, it’s prohibited to use a phone within 100 feet of polling stations. Call your Board of Elections in advance to avoid breaking any rules.

I Requested A Mail-In Ballot. Can I Vote In Person Instead?

Likely, yes. Bring your absentee ballot to your polling place, where officials will verify that you haven’t voted yet. But check your state's rules to make sure.

When's The Best Time To Vote On Election Day To Avoid Lines?

It's a bit of a gamble. Since many people vote before or after work, heading to the polls in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon is a safe bet. If you live in a state with long lines to vote, the earlier, the better.

On Oct. 25, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) took issue with the long lines in New York. “There is no place in the United States of America where two-, three-, four-hour waits to vote is acceptable,” she said. “And just because it’s happening in a blue state doesn’t mean it’s not voter suppression ... If this was happening in a swing state, there’d be national coverage.”

What If You Have A Last-Minute Emergency & Can't Vote In Person?

If you're in an emergency situation, contact your local election office ASAP. In Minnesota and Georgia, for example, someone will deliver ballots to voters in the hospital. And remember, if you're experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home to ensure the safety of others.

Are you ready for Election Day? Start by registering to vote and making a plan for Nov. 3. For more information on voting, head to our comprehensive voting guide.