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TFK Explains: Voting in 2020

TRAINING DAY Sample ballots are used during a training session in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on September 22. RACHEL WISNIEWSKI—BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

When is Election Day?

According to United States law, Election Day is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, in even-numbered years. In 2020, Election Day is November 3. Americans will vote for a number of things, including who should be president of the United States.

What if someone can’t vote in person on Election Day?

Many states allow people to vote at a polling place before Election Day. This is called early voting. It can start as soon as 45 days before Election Day. If a person is unable or unwilling to vote in person, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., allow voting by mail.

Who can vote by mail?

This year, about three out of every four registered voters have the option to vote by mail. Because of the pandemic, many people are worried about voting in person at a crowded polling place. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Americans to consider “voting alternatives.” This is to limit exposure to the virus. One alternative is mail-in voting. So state and local election officials are making it easier for voters to submit mail-in ballots.

WAITING TO VOTE On September 18, people line up for the first day of early voting in Fairfax, Virginia.


How does mail-in voting work?

A voter is mailed a ballot. He or she fills it out and seals it inside two envelopes, with a signature. Then it can be mailed to the election office or, in many locations, placed in a secure drop box.

This procedure varies. Elections are run by state and local governments. Each has its own system.

How secure is voting by mail?

Some people, including President Donald Trump, have expressed concern about the security of voting by mail. But experts say fraud is easy to spot and extremely rare. Officials are on the lookout for people who send in more than one ballot or who vote under someone else’s name. There are serious consequences for these illegal actions.

When will we know who won the presidential election?

Usually, election results are unofficially announced on election night. But mail-in ballots take longer to check and to count. With more people than usual expected to vote by mail this year, it could be days or even weeks before a winner is made official.