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US presidential election 2020: voter resources and helpful links

As Election Day approaches—today, we’re only 6 days away from it—so do the potential consequences this election’s results could have on the US, even long after 3 November 2020. While some of you might have already voted, there is actually far more you could do to do your part in what is one of the most important US presidential elections ever. Here are resources and helpful links you’ll need as a US voter in order to get involved in this year’s election.

1. Register to vote

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? As a US citizen, voting is your responsibility as it represents your chance to shape the future of your country. What kind of American do you want to be, and more importantly, what kind of America do you want to live in? Those two questions will be answered in your vote, so make sure you make the effort to have a say in these elections.

Before you start looking at your voting options, check your voter registration status here to make sure your name is still on the list at the right address. If you’ve never voted before, you’ll need to register first, which you can do here in less than 30 seconds!

Keep in mind that registration deadlines for the general election vary from state to state, so if you still haven’t registered to vote, it may not be too late for you! Simply find your state in the dropdown menu on this page to learn more about your registration deadlines.

Once you’ve registered, check to see where you’re voting from and whether your state requires you to show an ID before you vote. Do not forget your ID, or you might end up going to your local polling station and have your vote denied. You can also find out whether you need one or not on your state’s page, here.

2. Postal ballots: the safest or most dangerous way to vote?

Until recently, voting by mail was claimed to be the safest way to vote. Why? Because voting by mail meant that you wouldn’t need to go to your polling station on Election Day, which would in result expose you to less coronavirus-related risk. And while this was certainly true for those who voted early using postal ballots, the situation might have already changed as election officials in many states say it is now too late for voters to return absentee ballots by mail and are instead encouraging them to deliver their ballots by hand or vote in person.

State rules differ on how late ballots can be received and whether they can still count. Absentee ballots must be received on Election Day in more than 24 states, including a handful of key swing states such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states approved new rules that will allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted, so long as they are received within a specified time window after 3 November. But this means that in 29 states, if your ballot isn’t received on Election Day by the close of the polls, then it won’t be counted. In 28 of those states, it is now taking more than 6 days for local first-class mail to get delivered.

In case this wasn’t clear enough, in Michigan for example, more than 3 million ballots were requested. How many of them were returned? Just over 2 million ballots, which means that a million ballots are still out there. Will they get there in time to be counted? Probably not. As if this wasn’t dodgy enough, California is now investigating unauthorised ballot boxes installed by Republicans.

When it comes to elections, better be safe than sorry. If you’re reading this now and wondering whether you should try voting by mail, here’s your answer: don’t, it is too late already. Just make sure you go to the right polling station, with your ID, on Election Day. You’ll have to queue and probably wait for a long time, but trust us, it will be worth it.

If you still have your ballot with you and are wondering what to do with it if you can’t send it, make sure to bring it with you to your polling station on Election Day and deliver it by hand.

3. What’s the difference between absentee ballots and vote by mail ballots?

Both are ways that voters can cast a ballot by voting from home and returning their ballot through the mail. While states like Washington, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and Colorado conduct all-mail elections and automatically send registered voters a ballot, most states ask that you first fill out a request form in order to have a ballot sent to you. That’s called absentee voting. The only difference is whether or not you have to request a ballot yourself, but both follow the voting by mail processes.

4. What if I requested a vote by mail ballot but decided in the end to vote on Election Day?

It depends on the state you vote in. While many states will still allow you to vote in person if you bring your vote-by-mail ballot to your polling place in order for them to invalidate the mail ballot and count your in-person ballot instead, others might specifically apply different rules. Check with your state’s election office to learn what rules apply in your state. If you forget to bring your mail-in ballot, or if you lose it, keep in mind that you can still cast a provisional ballot in-person on Election Day.

5. Key states

The presidential election will come down to what voters do in a few specific states, which are commonly called key states. Below is a list of those states and why they’re so important, however, remember that the individual races in every state are very important too, so you need to get involved no matter where you live.

Arizona could give Democrats their best chance to flip a traditionally red state.

This year, winning Florida would mean Democrats would only need to flip one more battleground state.

Michigan is where Trump won by the smallest margin of victory in 2016. Democrats flipped eight statewide seats in 2018, which means it’s now one of their best chances to flip a state in 2020.

North Carolina was unique in 2016, electing Trump along with a Democratic Governor and Attorney General, which is a strong sign that voters can potentially be swung.

Although Trump surprised everyone with a Pennsylvania win in 2016, Democrats have flipped seats since then and momentum is on their side.

In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by less than one point and a Democrat won the governorship by less than one point in 2018 meaning Wisconsin could be the closest battleground state of all.

No matter where you live, you can directly support the work of organisers, volunteers, and candidates in the six key battleground states that will be most important to delivering a progressive majority in 2020. Just pick a state, sign up, and you’ll get everything you need to make a big difference this November. Find out more information about exactly how you can get involved and help those states by clicking on one of them or here.

6. Become a poll worker

Over half of poll workers in 2016 were over the age of 60, which also happens to be the group in the greatest danger from COVID-19 this year. Considering the fact that the US needs at least 1 million poll workers on Election Day, this means that more poll workers are urgently needed! If you’re young, healthy and willing to help, sign up to be trained and work as a poll worker at your polling location here.

7. Volunteer

You could also help by volunteering at a specific state’s Voter Protection Department. From hotline volunteers to poll observers, polling stations are looking for staff, so why not help and protect voting rights? Find out where you can volunteer here.

8. Donate

If you’ve got a dollar to spare but you’re not sure who to donate it to in order for it to have the biggest impact possible, then you’ll want to have a look at this page. On there, you’ll find out more information about funds you could help by donating.

9. Still confused?

Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, especially when it comes to the US presidential election—remember the chaos of the two presidential debates? If you feel like you still need more information about this year’s candidates, what they stand for or how they actually become President in the first place, it’s all on here! Take your time, get informed so you can get involved.

This really is the most important election in US history. After a first term in which Trump has openly defied Congress and the courts, twisted foreign policy to serve his political interests and openly dismissed electoral norms, his return to power would, in effect, legitimise the gutting of the institutions of law.

Re-election would justify his view that as president, he can do whatever he wants. It would destroy the kind of democracy that has existed in the US in the past. Your vote matters more than ever before, and so does your implication in the process. Make sure you have an impact.

Here’s what went down during the last presidential debate between Trump and Biden

50 million Americans have already voted, and according to national polls, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by about 10 percentage points and has held such a lead for weeks now. Although we’ve learned the hard way that polls should be taken with a pinch of salt, this implied that in order to get back in the race, Trump had to really ‘up his game’ during the final presidential debate that took place last night on Thursday 22 October. Here’s what went down last night and who was deemed the ‘winner’ of the debate.

The final debate was more coherent than the previous one

If you remember what happened during the previous presidential debate, you’ll probably have a vague recollection of chaotic conversations and Trump’s constant interruptions. Tthe first debate went so badly that for this one, the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) had to introduce a new rule that would mute a candidate’s microphone while the other one was delivering a two-minute response to the opening question on each of the six debate topics.

Thankfully, this debate was a far more substantive encounter than Biden and Trump’s unpresidential face-off last month. Both candidates were more restrained, Trump largely abided by the rules, allowing Biden to speak uninterrupted and even complimenting the moderator Kristen Welker, who he spent the last week criticising. The same could be said about Biden—when Trump made a false claim about him, Biden simply looked up and stayed quiet.

Candidates argued about the coronavirus situation in the US

The final debate opened on the topic of COVID-19, and Trump continued to downplay the severity of the public health crisis, defending his response and predicting that a vaccine was imminent, even though his own public health experts have said one would likely not be widely available to the American public until next summer.

“It will go away,” Trump said, adding “We’re rounding the corner.” In response, Biden opened his remarks by acknowledging the toll of the coronavirus pandemic and warned that the nation must prepare for “a dark winter.”

Biden said: “220,000 deaths. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this. Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States.”

Xenophobia, racism and the Proud Boys

At one point, Trump said Biden called his decision to impose COVID-19 related travel restrictions on China “xenophobic,” to which the Democrat shot back: “He is xenophobic, but not because he cut off access from China.”

Both candidates were also asked to speak directly to black and brown Americans about racism in the US. Biden admitted that institutional racism exists and that combating racial inequality would be a priority of his administration. Trump, instead of answering, decided to attack his opponent for playing a central role writing the 1994 crime bill that many experts and critics say laid the groundwork for mass incarceration that disproportionately affected black communities.

After announcing that it was too dark for him to see the audience in the room, Trump repeated a few times that he was the “least racist person in this room,” which seemed to fuel Biden’s answer. “This guy has a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn,” he said, accusing Trump of being “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history” and a leader who intentionally “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

Biden tried mentioning the Proud Boys incident, which had taken place during the previous debate, saying “Last time we were on stage, he says to the Poor Boys […],” mixing up the name of the Proud Boys with ‘Poor Boys’.

Immigration and climate change

In an exchange on immigration, Trump attempted to defend his administration’s decision to separate thousands of immigrant families at the southern border, even after revelations that 545 children have still not been reunited with their parents after spending 2 years apart. Trump added that the White House was working on a plan to reunite the children and their parents but insisted the blame lay with the Obama administration, which enforced a record number of deportations.

Biden denied that the previous administration was responsible for Trump’s mistakes and described the situation as “criminal.” When pressed on why voters should trust him to deliver immigration reform when the Obama administration failed to deliver on this promise, Biden conceded: “we made a mistake. It took too long to get it right.”

The debate finished with a discussion on the topic of climate change. Biden mentioned the need to expand sources of renewable energy while disputing Trump’s claim that he intended to ban fracking, which he does not. What did Trump have to say about climate change and, apparently, wind turbines? “I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive. Kills all the birds.”

Family and finances

Citing recent revelations in the New York Times that showed Trump only paid $750 a year in federal income taxes while maintaining an undisclosed bank account in China, Biden asked Trump to “release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption.”

Trump, who has not yet released his tax returns, claimed his accountants told him that he had “prepaid tens of millions of dollars” in taxes. The president then repeatedly levelled unsubstantiated claims about the former vice-president’s son Hunter Biden. Biden defended his son and denied Trump’s accusations as he sought to turn the conversation back to policy.

“There’s a reason why he’s bringing up all this malarkey,” Biden said, speaking directly to the camera. “He doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues. It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family.”

During this final debate, Trump spoke to his base while Biden spoke to the country. The former vice president gave a crisp performance—pushing aside a few stutters and the ‘Poor Boys’—somehow looking and sounding healthier than the man he stood beside. During the 2016 Republican primary, Trump’s dramatic media habits helped him. This year, he needed to communicate (and therefore reach) those who live outside of the Fox News Cinematic Universe, which he did not.

It seems as though Trump has completely given up trying to articulate a plan. During this final presidential debate, it was clear that the president had nothing to say, no agenda, no plan. Instead, he was purely reactive and gave Americans no vision for a second-term Trump presidency. Trump needed a big win and it looks like he didn’t get one—quite the contrary.