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How to Vote During a Pandemic

From coronavirus to vote-by-mail, the 2020 election is shaping up to be even more confusing than most, which is saying something. Here’s how to figure out what the heck is going on this year and what you can do to participate in our democracy.

Election workers set up voting booths at an early voting site in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 15. (Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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How to Get Accurate Voting Information During Coronavirus

COVID-19 already had the primaries looking very different, with several elections delayed, vote by mail expanded, drive-thru voting offered in some states and poll workers wearing personal protective equipment.

State and local voting systems are continuing to make the adjustments and preparations needed to both run elections and protect public health, so procedures are likely to change from what you’re used to if you’ve voted before.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Find your local elections official’s website and make that your first stop for updates on voting changes in your congressional district. It is the most reliable.

Vote411, a collection of election-related information from the League of Women Voters, also lists state-by-state coronavirus-specific voting updates.

Who’s on the Ballot This Year?

Although the race for the White House understandably gets most of the spotlight, there’s a congressional election happening now too, with all 435 U.S. House seats up for election and 35 contests in the Senate. Depending on where you live, a host of state and local races and ballot issues are also in play. Here’s who could be on your ballot:

The President

As you’ve probably heard, there is a presidential election this year.

Members of Congress

Made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Congress is tasked with making laws on your behalf.

Each member of the Senate represents their entire state, with two senators per state. Unless filling a vacancy, senators are elected to six-year terms, and every two years about one-third of them are up for election. That means a lot of places don’t have a Senate race this year.

No matter what state you live in, your congressional district is voting for a House representative in this year’s election. Each of the 435 members in the House of Representatives represents a portion of their state, known as a congressional district, averaging 700,000 people. This is the person in the federal government closest to you, working in your district’s name.

For information on who’s on your ballot, from the state on down, check out Ballotpedia.

State Officials and Down-Ballot Contests

Which state officials are up for election depends on where you vote, but you might see candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and judges from various levels of courts. Further down the ballot, you might also find offices such as treasurer and school superintendent.

Your state legislators are probably also on the ballot. Across the 50 states are 99 legislative chambers — all states have their own lower (larger) and upper (smaller) chambers except for Nebraska, which works as one big assembly. Of those 99 chambers, 86 have seats up for election this year.

You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating: The decisions made by your local elected officials are the ones that most directly affect your daily life.

But here’s the other thing about state and local government: They’re responsible for stepping up when the federal government does not. This point has come into sharper focus this year when many state and local elected officials led the way in responding effectively (or not) to the pandemic. Local government also takes the lead on crucial issues such as policing and holding police accountable in your community, along with regulations that set funding for schools and services, rent costs and affordable housing, environmental protection and public transit. Your local government has tremendous influence over how your community is run.

Enter your address at Ballotpedia to see a list of what’s being decided on in your area this year.

How to See If You’re Registered to Vote

Even if you’re pretty sure you are, take a moment to get 100% certain.

Sometimes, election officials clean up their voter rolls to remove inactive voters and those who may have died or moved. These efforts, unfortunately, sometimes mean that active registered voters are swept from the rolls without their knowledge.

Take a moment now to double check your status. also has a handy look-up tool that lets you verify your voter registration in seconds.

If you’re not, or if you need to update your information, there’s still time — but deadlines are approaching soon in many states. Click here to register to vote. Click here to look up specific voting information and deadlines for your state.

What Should I Do If I Run Into Issues Registering or Voting?

If you run into problems registering to vote (or during any other steps of the voting process that you may have taken so far), we want to hear from you. ProPublica’s Electionland project monitors and reports on problems that prevent people from voting. Now through Election Day, let us know via text, WhatsApp or Facebook if you experience or witness any voting troubles.

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