Want To Vote For The Planet? Here’s What You Need To Know To Vote

Roll of vote by mail stickers against a white backdrop

Your vote is important for many reasons. One big reason is that while this election is heating up, our planet is too. Action on climate change is more crucial than ever, our National policy concerning carbon emissions, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the protection of Federal lands could all be decided within the next 4 years leading to lasting effects on our planet. 

So lets make sure you have everything you need to exercise that civic duty! 

Should You Vote By Mail?

While the coronavirus has us baking bread, learning to cross-stitch, and pretty much doing anything we can inside the walls of our own home to keep from going insane, many Americans are thinking: “Why not vote from home too?” 

A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal shows that 67% of American voters support mail in voting, and a near 58% are in support of a permanent change to election law to allow voting by mail for all eligible voters. In the recent primary elections have confronted voters with multiple hours of waiting in line due to a shortage of poll workers, longer journeys to vote due to a consolidation of polling places, and the health risks from Covid-19, all of which likely contribute to voters wanting to vote by mail

The CDC recommends that voters look for alternatives to in-person voting to limit the number of people you come in contact with. Voting by mail can help mitigate these risks and you can do it from the comfort of your own home as you lovingly tend to your sourdough starter. You’ll be helping to flatten the curve, by protecting yourself as well as Poll Workers and volunteers from possible exposure. Just like wearing your mask to Trader Joes, voting by mail is an easy way to keep everyone safe! 

How To Vote By Mail, Your Absentee And Vote By Mail Checklist :

Over the past few months multiple states have provided more and more options for voting by mail, but what’s important to know is that rules vary by state. Make sure you’re ready to vote by mail with this checklist: 

  • Are you registered to vote? Each state has different guidelines, regulations, and rules. Even if you voted recently, it always helps to do the due diligence and double-check. You can check if you’re registered here.
  • If you’re not registered yet, check your state’s deadline for voting registration! You can do so here.
  • After you’re ready to request your absentee ballot, check the deadlines for postmarked dates to make sure you get everything in with plenty of time to spare. Check here.  
  • Then you’re ready to request your ballot or check to see if your state will mail ballots to all registered voters! Five states have passed legislation to send ballots to all registered voters (CA, NJ, DC, NV, VT– go team!), and some are sending the absentee ballot application to all voters without prompt. However, in most states you’ll still need to request a ballot. Check the information for your state, and request your ballot if needed here
  • If your state requires an excuse for an absentee ballot you may be eligible to receive one. For example, New York State is now allowing voters to vote by mail due to the risk of Covid-19, they just need to specify that as their excuse when requesting their ballot. Currently, six states are only allowing absentee voting if you are out of the state on the day of election or if you qualify for another one of their guidelines, IN, MS, SC, TN, TX, WV. However, this could change! If your state has not expanded their requirements, call your representatives! See if anything can be done to open up this option to more voters. Check your state’s guidelines and updates due to Covid-19 here.
  • When your long awaited ballot arrives in September or October, fill it out, seal it up (make sure to sign the seal!) and send it off as soon as possible. The New York Times explains simply which states have accounted for last minute mail in votes, and which ones you’ll need to get your ballot in the mail ASAP. Depending on your State, some will accept a vote postmarked before or on the election up to 7 days after November 3rd. Maryland will even count mailed in votes up to 10 days after the election as long as they’re postmarked by November 3rd! 

Are You Worried About Voting By Mail?

If you’re worried about the possibility of your mail in vote being rejected, mailing it in early can allow the Election Office time to contact you so you can fix the mistake (depending on if your state’s regulations), like missing a signature or other mismatched information. 

Or if what’s on your mind is the recently reported “slow down” of the USPS, the Postmaster General has commented that the Postal Service is prepared to deliver ballots “securely and on time”. But growing concern has many lawmakers exploring other options for absentee voting as well, like drop off boxes (they’ve been common in Washington State for a few years). Even if your area does not provide drop off boxes, you may be able to drop off your absentee ballot at your local Election Office. If you’re unsure, call or email to check! You can find contact information for your local Election Office here.

Should you vote in person?

Voting in person is still an option this election cycle! If you choose to vote in person, it is recommended that you maintain proper social distancing and wear a mask to protect yourself, other voters, and poll workers. If you’re concerned about voting in person, The Atlantic suggests that voting in person carries a similar risk to going to the grocery store. However, risks from in-person voting can be further mitigated by choosing to vote early!

Many (but not all) states are offering early voting days ahead of the November election. Voting early can help to reduce lines on election day, helping keep voters and poll workers safe. Considering voting early and in person? Great! You can start by finding out if your state offers early voting and when here. Be sure to follow up on your state website to make sure you have everything you need before heading to cast your vote early and grab a mask!

Why Does Voting Matter For The Planet? 

Now more than ever is the time to take action. Though we can take every step possible to minimize our individual impact on the planet by cutting out single-use plastics, investing in reusable products, and supporting companies dedicated to sustainability, lasting change will come from policy and the regulation of pollution by corporations, 100 of whom produce 71% of all industrial emissions. 

The most impactful action you can take as an individual against climate change is by voting and supporting those who will champion our planet. So get that ballot signed, sealed, and delivered (or postmarked!) by November 3rd. 

Learn more about safely voting by mail from the NRDC here.

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