(COURIER illustration / Denzel Boyd)
(COURIER illustration / Denzel Boyd)

This article is part of COURIER’s Your Vote 2020 hub. For more stories from each of the battleground states, along with national reporting, visit the site here.

Nov. 3 is fast approaching, and many voting rules have changed already. To make sure your vote is counted, we break down everything you need to know about voting in person on Election Day.

Even with an ongoing pandemic and various options to vote by mail or absentee, many Americans will opt to vote in person on Election Day. However, the process may not be as clear cut as one would expect. Whether you show up to a polling place that’s closed or your name isn’t on the voter roll, we’re breaking down everything that can go wrong on Nov. 3 and what you can do about it to ensure your vote counts. 

What If I’ve Forgotten My ID or Don’t Have the Right One?

Voter ID laws vary by state. You should visit your state’s election office website for specific information. A total of 36 states have laws requiring or requesting voters to show some form of ID at the polling place, while the others often identify voters by checking signatures against those on file. If you show up without proper identification, states allow voters to either sign an affidavit or a provisional ballot requiring additional action.

What Should I Do If I Requested an Absentee Ballot but Want to Vote in Person?

Generally, you will need to bring your absentee ballot to your assigned polling place and either exchange the absentee ballot for an in-person ballot or complete the absentee ballot and hand it in there. Some voters may need to cast a provisional ballot. You can check your state’s voting laws beforehand here

My Name Isn’t on the Voter Roll at My Polling Place. What Do I Do?

As long as you’re a registered voter, you will be able to cast a provisional ballot. Election officials will then review whether you are in fact eligible to vote. If you are eligible, the vote will be counted. To avoid this problem, make sure to double-check your voter registration status before Election Day. You can do this here.

The Polling Place I Thought I Should Use Is Closed. How Can I Vote?

Some states have closed or may close polling places due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s important to check your polling location (using the address associated with your voter registration) before Election Day to ensure you go to the right spot. 

The Lines Are Incredibly Long. What If the Polls Close While I’m Still in Line?

Depending on where you live, long lines might be expected on Election Day—even when there isn’t also a pandemic happening. But even if the polls close while you’re still in line, you have the right to stay in line until you vote. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations for polling places to ensure social distancing can be maintained. You should also wear a mask the entire time at the polls. If you can, try to vote mid-morning or mid-afternoon, when lines are often shorter. 

If you live somewhere that sees cold weather in early November, wear layers and bring a hat and gloves. Also, you should consider bringing a book or magazines, or stream a TV show on your phone. It may also be smart to pack some snacks in case the wait times are especially long. 

How Do I Vote if My Polling Place Has Run Out of Ballots? 

Although specific practices vary by location, no polling place can turn you away because they’ve run out of ballots. Typically, when poll workers realize ballots are getting low, they’ll call for more to be delivered. But, if people are not able to wait or come back later, some polling locations provide alternative options such as filling out sample ballots, though this is not ideal. 

The Poll Worker Told Me That My Signature Doesn’t Match. How Can I Prove My Identity?

Most discrepancies between signatures occur with mail-in voting. If your signature is different when voting in person—due to change over time, loss in motor skill, or a name change, for instance—you can prove your identity by presenting a photo ID with signature. 

They Don’t Have Provisional Ballots. What Should I Do?

Provisional ballots are required by law to provide a safeguard for voters who encounter eligibility issues at the poll. These issues might include a person not found on the voter rolls or being at the wrong polling site. If a polling place doesn’t have a provisional ballot, they should call and request some to be delivered.

If you are denied a provisional ballot for any reason, contact the Election Protection Hotline: (866) 687-8683. 

Still have questions about voting? We got you covered: