Everything You Need To Know About How to Vote in Appalachia

A voter passes a voting kiosk as he prepares to vote at a Jackson, Miss., precinct in the party primaries, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

With mail-in ballots, early voting and new procedures in place to allow for social distancing at polling places, the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election will be different than any we’ve seen, at least in the recent past. 

President Donald Trump continues to argue that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud, but in many states that have used the process for years, the claim has never proved to be true. While an official vote-by-mail system doesn’t exist in many Appalachian states, they actually use the same process for absentee voting. In fact, many states don’t even create a distinction between the two in their voting guidelines.

With all of the political tensions around voting this year and claims that the process cannot be done safely, we’ve compiled this guideline of all the pertinent information you need ahead of casting a vote in your Appalachian state.

General information about voting 

The General Election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

To vote in the U.S.:

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen
  2. You must meet your state’s registration requirements (You can be experiencing homelessness and still meet these requirements.)
  3. You must be 18 years old on or before Election Day and registered to vote by your state’s deadline.

If you’ve been convicted of a felony you may still be eligible to vote. Find out your eligibility at Restore Your Vote.

*In voting for any election, the most important thing to remember is to sign and date every document including your registration and absentee ballot application.

Despite claims from the president, the General Election cannot be canceled or postponed by executive order.

Financial trouble has led to widely reported delays in the U.S. Postal Service, which is creating additional worry about the timeliness of voting-by-mail. This guide from PolitiFact tells you how to make sure your vote will count.

Voting guidelines by state 

Alabama

You can register to vote until Oct. 19 or have your registration postmarked on Oct. 19 by filling out the National Voter Registration Form and return your completed form the address provided via mail or hand-delivery.

Alabama will have in-person and absentee voting options available. 

In-person

Registered voters can vote in-person at your local polling place, which you can find here

Absentee

Your absentee ballot application needs to be received by Oct. 5.

Your absentee ballot needs to be postmarked one day before the election (Nov. 2) and/or received by noon on Election Day (Nov. 3). 

You can receive an absentee ballot by filling out the absentee ballot application form and returning it to your local election office via mail or hand-delivery. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out following the instructions and provide a copy of a valid photo ID. Sign and date the affidavit which must be verified by a notary public or two witnesses who must sign your absentee ballot envelope. You can then mail your ballot back to the address indicated. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.vote.org/state/alabama/

Georgia

Register to vote until Oct. 5 to take part in the Nov. 3 general election. Begin by filling out the National Voter Registration form and return it to the address provided via mail or hand-delivery. 

Absentee and in-person voting will be available in Georgia. 

Absentee

Any registered Georgia voter can apply for absentee voting by filling out the absentee ballot application and returning the completed form to your local election office via mail or hand-delivery. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out and mail it back to the indicated address on the envelope. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

In-person

Vote in-person on Election Day at your local polling place. Early voting is possible to avoid the crowds and opens the fourth Monday before the election (Oct. 12) and ends the Friday (Oct. 30) before Election Day.

For more information visit: https://georgia.gov/covid-19-coronavirus-georgia/covid-19-state-services-georgia/voting & https://www.vote.org/state/georgia/

Kentucky

Oct. 6, 2020, is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 3 election by filling out the National Voter Registration Form and mail or hand-deliver it to the address provided before Oct. 6.

Kentucky is offering in-person and absentee voting options. 

In-person voting

After registering to vote, find your local polling place to vote on Election Day (Nov. 3).

Absentee voting

Your application for an absentee ballot must be submitted by Oct. 27. You can fill out the absentee ballot application and return it to your local election office via mail or hand delivery. If it’s close to the deadline, you may call your local election office and ask if fax or email would be an accepted method of submission. 

Once you receive your ballot, fill it out following the instructions and mail it back to the address indicated on the envelope. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://ivoterguide.com/state/Kentucky & https://www.vote.org/state/kentucky/

Maryland

Register to vote online, in-person or by mail until Oct. 13. Absentee voting and in-person voting are available for registered Maryland voters for the 2020 General Election. 

Absentee voting

Any registered voter can vote absentee. Fill out your absentee ballot application and return it to your local election office as soon as possible by mail, hand-delivery, fax or email.  

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27 if you want it faxed or mailed to you. If you’d like to receive your ballot via download from the state’s website, the deadline is Oct. 30. After you receive your ballot it should be returned to your county board of elections via hand delivery on or before 8 p.m. on Election Day (Nov. 3). If you wish to mail your ballot, it must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by Nov. 13.

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

In-person voting

Vote in-person on Election Day (Nov. 3) at your local polling place. If you have not yet registered, you can do so by bringing an MVA-issued license, ID card or other government-issued documents with your name and current address on it. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens on Oct. 22 and closes Oct. 29.

For more information visit: https://www.vote411.org/maryland & https://www.vote.org/state/maryland/

Mississippi

You must be registered to vote by Oct. 4 or have it postmarked on Oct. 4. You can register by filling out the National Voter Registration Form and returning it via mail or hand-delivery to the address provided.

Mississippi will offer in-person and absentee voting options for registered voters. 

In-person

You can vote in-person on Election Day at your local polling place.

Absentee

There is no specific deadline for your absentee ballot application but it is recommended that it be requested seven days before the election (Oct. 27). It must be received by 5 p.m. one day before the election (Nov. 2) via mail or three days before Election Day (Oct. 31) in-person. 

You can receive an absentee ballot by filling out the absentee ballot application and return your completed application to your local election office via mail or hand-delivery. Once you receive your ballot, mark it following the instructions and mail it back to the address provided.

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.vote.org/mississippi/

New York

Register to vote until 25 days before the election (Oct. 9) or have your registration postmarked until 25 days before so it can be received 20 days before Election Day (Oct. 14). Fill out the National Voter Registration Form and return it to the address provided via mail or hand-delivery.

Absentee and in-person voting options are available for New York registered voters. 

Absentee

Your absentee ballot application needs to be received one day before the election (Nov. 2) or postmarked seven days before the election (Oct. 27). 

Your ballots can be turned in by hand on Election Day (Nov. 3) or postmarked one day before the election (Nov. 2) and received seven days after (Nov. 10). 

To receive an absentee ballot you have to fill out the absentee ballot application and return it completed to your local election office via mail, hand-delivery, fax or email. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out following the instructions and mail it to the indicated address on the envelope before the deadline. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here.

In-person

You can vote in-person at your local polling place. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens 10 days before the election and ends two days before.

For more information visit: https://www.elections.ny.gov/votingdeadlines.html & https://www.vote.org/state/new-york/

North Carolina

Register to vote by Oct. 9, 2020, by filling out the National Registration Form and mail or hand-deliver the completed form to the address provided by the deadline (Oct. 9).

In-person and absentee voting is available in North Carolina. 

 In-person

After registering to vote, you may vote at your local polling place on Election Day. 

If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens 19 days before the election (Oct. 15) and closes three days before (Oct. 31).

Absentee voting

Fill out the absentee ballot application and return the completed application to your local election office via mail or hand-delivery. Once you receive your ballot, follow the instructions provided and mark your ballot in the presence of a witness or a notary public. You can then seal your ballot and complete the Absentee Application and Certificate on the back of the envelope while your witness will sign and complete the witnesses’ certification on the envelope.

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.rockthevote.org/how-to-vote/election-dates-deadlines/north-carolina/ & https://www.vote.org/state/north-carolina/

Ohio

Register to vote in-person or online 30 days before Election Day (Oct. 4), or have your registration postmarked by Oct. 4. You can register by filling out the National Voter Registration Form and returning it to the indicated address via mail or hand-delivery by the deadline. 

Ohio will offer in-person and absentee voting options for registered voters. 

In-person

You can vote in-person at your local polling station on Election Day (Nov. 3). If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens 28 days before the election (Oct. 6) and closes at 2 p.m. the day before the election (Nov. 2).

Absentee

Your absentee ballot application needs to be received by noon, three days before the election (Oct. 31). Your absentee ballots must be postmarked on Election Day (Nov. 3) and received no later than 10 days after the election (Nov. 13) or received in-person on Election Day (Nov. 3). 

You can sign up for an absentee ballot by filling out the absentee ballot application and returning your completed application to your local election office via mail or hand-delivery. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out following the instructions and mail it back to the address indicated.

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.vote411.org/ohio & https://www.vote.org/state/ohio/

Pennsylvania

If you live in Pennsylvania, register to vote by Oct. 19, 2020. If you plan to vote by mail, applications must be received by your county election office by Oct. 27, 2020, at 5 p.m.

After completing the application for mail-in or absentee voting, fill out the ballot following the instructions, place it in the secrecy envelope and sign the declaration to ensure your vote is counted. Mail your ballot to your county election office.

Pennsylvania Ballotpedia is a great site to get more information on the upcoming general election, and the candidates that are running. 

The state is planning to offer three voting methods for the 2020 General Election: In-person, mail-in voting or absentee voting. While most states do not make a distinction between mail-in and absentee voting, Pennsylvania lists the two phrases separately with regulations for each. 

In-person

After registering to vote, find your polling place here

Mail-in voting 

You can apply online if you’re a registered voter with a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, or through the mail. 

To apply through mail, you must fill out the mail-in ballot application. You can contact your county election office to request a paper application rather than an electronic one. Or, you can contact the Department of State by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-877-VOTESPA. Send your mail-in ballot to your county election office. The deadline to apply for the mail-in ballot is one week before the election.

Absentee voting 

Apply online for an absentee voter application or fill out a paper form. You can print and fill out the form or contact your county election office to request a paper application. When you fill out the application, make sure to mark your reason for the request and mail the application to your county election office. The deadline for applying is one week before Election Day.

Your voted ballots must be received by your county election office by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 and postmarks are not accepted.

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.votespa.com/Voting-in-PA/Pages/Mail-and-Absentee-Ballot.aspx

South Carolina

Register to vote in-person or online until 30 days before Election Day (Oct. 4) or have your registration postmarked no later than 30 days before the election (Oct. 4). You can do this by filling out the National Voter Registration Form and return it to the address provided via mail or hand-delivery.

South Carolina is planning to offer in-person and absentee voting for the 2020 General Election. 

In-person

You can vote in-person on Election Day (Nov. 3) at your local polling place.

Absentee

Your absentee ballot application must be requested at least four days before Election Day (Oct. 30) and your absentee ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day (Nov. 3). 

You must first fill out the absentee ballot application and return it completed to your local election office via mail, hand-delivery, fax or email by Oct. 30. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out following the instructions and place your voted ballot in the “ballot herein” envelope which then goes in the return envelope. The ballots must be returned with an oath signed by the voter and a witness and mailed back to the address indicated by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.vote411.org/south-carolina & https://www.vote.org/state/south-carolina/

Tennessee

You must register to vote by Oct. 5, 2020, to take part in the Nov. 3 election. You can do this by filling out the form and return it as soon as possible to the address provided via mail or hand delivery. 

In-person and absentee voting is available in Tennessee. 

In-person

Vote in person on Election Day (Nov. 3) by finding your local polling station and placing your ballot. 

If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens 20 days before the election (Oct. 14) and closes five days before (Oct. 29).

Absentee

If any registered Tennessee voter doesn’t wish to place an in-person vote because of COVID-19, they can request to receive an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

Fill out the absentee ballot application and return it completed to your local election office via mail, hand-delivery, fax or email before the deadline. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27 and the deadline to submit the ballot is Nov. 3.

Once you receive your ballot, return it to the address provided via mail before the deadline. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.rockthevote.org/how-to-vote/election-dates-deadlines/tennessee/ & https://www.vote.org/state/tennessee/

Virginia

Register to vote online, by mail or in person by Oct. 13, 2020. Virginia is offering in-person and absentee voting options. 

In-person voting

Vote in-person on Election Day (Nov. 3) at your local polling place. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens 45 days before the election (Sept. 19) and closes three days before (Oct. 31). 

Absentee voting

Fill out the absentee ballot application and make sure it is received seven days before the election (Oct. 27) or in-person three days before the election (Oct. 31). All voters are eligible for absentee voting either in-person or by mail until 45 days before the election. You must return your application to your local election office via mail, hand-delivery, fax or email by Oct. 27. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out and return it to the address indicated.

Voted mail ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and be received by noon on the third day after the election by your local registrar to be counted. 

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

For more information visit: https://www.vote411.org/virginia & https://www.vote.org/state/virginia/

West Virginia

All West Virginia voters will be able to use concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to request an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election.

Register to vote until 21 days before Election Day (Oct. 13).

West Virginia is planning to allow in-person and absentee voting for the 2020 General Election. 

Absentee voting

All West Virginia voters will be able to use concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to request an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election.

Fill out the absentee ballot form and submit the completed application to your local election office until six days before Election Day (Oct. 28). All election offices will accept mailed, hand-delivered, faxed or emailed applications. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out following the instructions and return it to the address on the envelope before the deadline. 

Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day (Nov. 3) and received by six days after Election Day (Oct. 28).

Find the rules for voting by absentee ballot here and track your absentee ballot here.

In-person voting

Register to vote and fill out the National Voter Registration Form. Mail or hand-deliver your completed form to address provided before the deadline. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, early voting opens 13 days before the election (Oct. 21) and closes three days before (Oct. 31). 

To learn more about the candidates, check out The Herald-Dispatch or Ballotpedia for more election information.

For more information visit: https://www.vote.org/state/west-virginia/

Note: Because of COVID-19, states are evolving and updating their election practices in order to keep all voters safe this fall. Check the links provided for your state’s most recent information regarding the 2020 General Election. 

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