How do you know if your vote counts this election? Here are 7 things you can do

This fall's election will be anything but normal. You can take a few steps to make sure your vote will make it in time.

Clifford Colby Managing Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
Expertise Tech from browser security to password managers and government programs from mail-in voting to federal assistance
Clifford Colby
3 min read

Make sure your vote counts this election.

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Voting in any election can be a task, between deciding how you'll to vote to making the time to mark your ballot. Voting this Nov. 3 in a pandemic, with an unmatched number of voters casting their ballot by mail, may create unprecedented challenges for yourself, state election officials and federal services.

Adding to the confusion are concerns about election fraud, which experts say is nearly impossible.

You can take a few steps, however, to help make your vote arrives in time and is counted. Here's what Matthew Levendusky, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on US politics , and voting-rights lawyer Marc Elias recommend you should do.

Watch this: Trump's top cybersecurity official: Mail-in ballots are safe

Check your registration status: Make sure you're registered to vote at your current address. The federal government has a website you can use to find your state's election site, where you can see your voting status as well as learn about your state's early and mail-in voting rules and deadlines.

Request your ballot as soon as possible: If your state is not one of the handful that will send mail-in ballots automatically to registered voters, request your ballot as soon as possible, if you intend to vote by mail. 

"Because many citizens are planning to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic, election officials will be swamped with applications close to the deadline," Levendusky says. "Requesting your ballot early helps them manage their workload."

Know your state's voting deadlines: Since elections are run at the state and not the federal level, voting rules can vary from state to state. Make sure you know your state's deadlines for voting by mail and for early voting.  

Know the location of your polling station: With concerns about the coronavirus and staffing shortages at polling locations, local election officials may consolidate polling places. Check where your polling place will be this fall if you intend to vote in person, because it may be in a different location from previous elections.


For many, voting by mail will be the way to cast a ballot this fall.

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Vote early: If you plan to vote in person, most states let you avoid the crowds and long lines and vote early. If you're unsure, check with your local election office to see if your district has extended hours.

Drop off your mail-in ballot at a ballot drop box, election office a polling location: If you have concerns about the USPS's ability to deliver your mail-in ballot on time, you can take matters into your own hands in many states and drop off your mail-in ballot at an election office, polling location or ballot drop box. Using a drop box or election location for your absentee ballot lets you skip the mail process entirely, says Elias, "allowing voters to drop off their mail ballots and have them be taken directly to county offices."

Track your ballot via email or online: Many states allow you to track the status of your ballot online and through email and text. California and North Carolina voters, for example, can use the Ballotrax system to track their mail-in ballots from when they're mailed to when they're counted. Pennsylvania has a similar system to let voters see the status of a mail-in ballot through every step. Check with your county's voter registration office to see if your county or state has a similar system.

For more about voting in the 2020 US election, here's everything you need to know about voting this fall, when early voting starts in your state and how your state is handling mail-in ballots.