In preparation for Election Day on November 3, 2020, Children’s National Hospital and Rise and Shine have developed a guide to help inform you and your teen about voting during the pandemic.

How to vote in five easy steps

  1. Register to vote. You may pre-register to vote if you will be 18 years old by the general election. Visit your state board of elections website to learn more!
  2. Get to know the candidates. Select candidates that are running for political office based on your own research. Do not rely solely on social media or media coverage of the candidate or party affiliation. It is important that you learn the issues that are important to each candidate.
  3. Know the rules. Most voting stations are open 12 hours on election day. According to federal law, first-time voters must bring a valid photo ID or a bill, pay stub or government document showing their name and current address.
  4. Find your polling place. State election offices determine your polling place by your voter registration address. It is important that your voter registration address is current.
  5. Cast your ballot. You can vote in-person or by mailing in an absentee ballot. If you are unable to vote on the day of the election, there may be opportunities to cast your ballot early.

Are you ready to vote?

Are you 16 years old?

  • Yes – You may be able to pre-register to vote. You may not vote in a primary election until you are at least 17 years old and will be at least 18 years old by the next general election.
  • No – You are unable to pre-register to vote until you are 16 or 17 years old. Please visit your state’s board of elections website to confirm requirements.

Do you have proof of residency?

  • Yes – Be sure to bring an acceptable form of identification the first time you vote.
  • No – Please visit your state’s board of elections website to find out what form of identification is accepted and okay to use.

Do you want to register to vote online or by-mail?

  • Online or By Mail: Please visit VotER to register to vote. If you are already registered, you may request your vote-from-home ballot.
  • Online: Please visit your state’s board of elections website. You can also register through RocktheVote or Vote.org.
  • By Mail: Please visit your local registration office to receive a hard copy application to mail in or print application.

Can I vote from home?

✓ Yes! You can absolutely vote from home by mail-in or absentee ballot. You will need to go online to request a ballot (details below).

What is the difference between an absentee ballot and mail-in ballot?

✓ An absentee ballot is generally used in every state to refer to a ballot filled out by a voter who cannot, for many reasons, go to a voting location on Election Day. Absentee ballots must be requested by the voter to be mailed out.

✓ A mail-in ballot is used more broadly to refer to ballots sent through the mail. Mail-in ballots typically refer to states where the ballots are sent to all registered voters whether they requested one or not.

Can I vote early and do I need a voter ID?

✓ Yes! You can vote early by mailing in or dropping your ballot off at a Drop Box location.

✓ If you are a first-time voter who is voting by mail using a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot, you MUST include proof of residency documentation with your ballot.

What are acceptable forms to use for proof of residency?

  • Current and valid DMV-issued ID
  • Government check or paycheck*
  • Bank statement*
  • Current utility bill*
  • Student housing statement/tuition bill
  • Homeless shelter occupancy statement
  • Current lease
  • Other government-issued document showing your name and address

*The issue, bill or statement date must be within 90 days of Election Day.

How do I find out who the candidates are?

✓ You can download a sample ballot from your state’s election site to find out the candidates who are running for office.

✓ Follow @VOTE411 on Instagram to learn more about candidates and your specific voting information (for example polling place, sample ballot and more).

What address should I use if I am going away for college?

In-State Students: Will you be living at home or on campus? Remember, when you register to vote, use the address you consider your home address; this is called your registered address. This will determine your district and who you are eligible to vote for.

Out-of-State Students: Are you leaving your home state to attend school? You will need to decide if you will remain a resident of your home state or become a resident of the new state. Remember that you may only be registered to vote in one state and need proof of residency in that state.

How do I sign up for reminders about important deadlines?

Visit Rock the Vote to sign up for reminders of upcoming election dates and deadlines in your area, so that you never miss an election.

Are there additional resources for voting?

Download the Voting During COVID-19 Guide in English and Spanish (PDFs).

Please note: The information provided is in no way intended to reflect an endorsement for, or opposition to, any candidate or political party.

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