Decision 2020

Voter's Guide: Casting Your Ballot for the 2020 General Election

Learn more about when to vote, where to vote and more in this guide to the 2020 general election that features President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What to Know

  • Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 19. In New Jersey, the registration deadline was Oct. 13, and in Delaware, it was Oct. 10.
  • Voters in all three states have the option of voting by mail, early or on Election Day.
  • Scroll down for your complete guide to registration, voting and everything you need to know about Election Day in all three states.

Election Day is just weeks away across the nation, and no two states are alike. Here's what you need to know about voting in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware to help you prepare to cast your ballot.

For information on who (and what) will be on the ballot, check out sample ballots in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

When is Election Day?

The 2020 general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Voters can vote early, by mail or on Election Day in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

How do I register to vote?

The voter registration deadlines have now passed for our three states, but here’s more information:

  • Oct. 10: Delaware -- Here was a link to register online. You could also have registered to vote at one of the state's three county election offices. Here is a link with those locations.
  • Oct. 13: New Jersey -- Here was a link to register online. You will need your driver's license or social security number. To register by paper, here is a link. All registered voters in the state will receive a mail-in ballot that you can use but don't have to if you prefer to vote in person.
  • Oct. 19: Pennsylvania -- Here is a link to register, and sign up for a mail-in ballot at the same time if you'd prefer to vote by mail. The deadline to register online is midnight. The deadline to register in person at county election offices may vary by county. In Montgomery County, for example, the election office in Norristown will be open till 7 p.m.

REMINDER: All citizens 18 years and older who are eligible to vote can go to your county election office to register to vote in person. In Pennsylvania, you can call 1.877.VOTESPA for more information.

Actions speak louder than arguments. Those political opinions you’re sharing online mean nothing unless you back them up with your vote.

How can I find out whether I'm registered?

Early Voting

Early voting is defined as either casting a ballot in person or returning a filled-out ballot to a county election bureau, satellite office or drop box in person ahead of Election Day. The ballot cast is usually a mail-in ballot sent to a voter who then chooses to return the ballot without using the U.S. Postal Service. None of the three states that comprise the Philadelphia region allow for true in-person early voting, that is, going to a polling place and casting a ballot before Election Day. Delaware is in the process of enacting it for elections in the future.

However! --> Early voting via mail-in ballot is allowed in all three states. Here is a map and list of all 170 drop box locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware that will allow you to find the ones closest to you. REMEMBER: You must return a ballot to a drop box or election office within the county of your residence.

How to Vote by Mail

The rule of thumb for voters in all three states should be "early." Election officials and experts are alerting voters to return your mail-in ballot to either a drop box, a county election office or the post office as soon as possible to avoid having the ballot arrive past the Nov. 3 deadline.

Voters in all three states have three options for returning a mail-in ballot: drop box, county election office or the mail.

Here's a step-by-step guide for properly filling out your ballot so it's counted:

If you’re voting by mail in Pennsylvania, there are a few steps you need to make sure you complete to properly fill out your ballot. Here’s a step-by-step guide to make sure your vote will be counted.
  • New Jersey: Mail-in ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 will be counted if they are received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 10 by county election offices. Ballots can be returned by mail with a postmark on or before November 3, 2020 to be counted as a valid ballot by the County Clerk if received by 8:00 p.m. on November 10th. Ballots without a postmark that are received within 48 hours of 8 p.m. Nov. 3 shall be considered valid.
  • Delaware: The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 30 if you are already registered to vote. Despite that deadline, state election officials are asking that voters return mail-in ballots a week before Nov. 3 to assure the ballot is counted.

Things to Know on Election Day

Polling place hours:

  • Pennsylvania: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • New Jersey: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Delaware: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In Pennsylvania, if you have voted previously at the same polling place, you don't need to show identification. If you are voting for the first time at a polling place, you will need to show a form of identification. One of the following qualifies: Pennsylvania driver's license or PennDOT ID card; ID issued by Pennsylvania or the US government; US passport; US military ID; student ID; employee ID; a confirmation issued by the County Voter Registration Office; non-photo ID issued by Pennsylvania or the US government; firearm permit; or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or a government check that includes your name and address.

In New Jersey, if you have voted in the same county before you will not need to show identification. If you are voting for the first time in a county, you will need to show a form of identification. Those include: NJ driver's license, with or without a photo; military or other government ID; student ID; employee ID; store membership card; US passport; or bank statement, car registration, government check or document, rent receipt, sample ballot, utility bill, or any other official document.

In Delaware, you will be asked to confirm your residency and provide a form of identification, which includes Delaware driver's license or state ID, US passport, Social Security Card, polling place card, bank statement, utility bill; or mail addressed to the voter at the address where registered.

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a voter who is required to provide identification but cannot is able to fill out a provisional ballot in person.

In Delaware, a voter who cannot provide a form of identification will be asked to sign an affidavit attesting to their residence.

Many Americans are confused about voting by mail and have fears that using the mail to cast your ballot will generate voter fraud. Debra Cleaver, founder and CEO of VOTEAMERICA, a non-profit that helps Americans vote by mail, joined NBCLX to debunk some mail voting myths and sort through conflicting messages on absentee voting.

Where do I vote?

Here are the websites that allow you to find out which voting location/polling place has been assigned to you.

  • Pennsylvania: CLICK HERE to find your polling place using your address.
  • New Jersey: CLICK HERE to find your polling place by county.
  • Delaware: CLICK HERE to find your polling place using your address.

What do I need to bring to vote in person?

  • Pennsylvania: If you have not requested a mail-in ballot, you only need a form of identification if voting at a polling place for the first time. If you have received your mail-in ballot, you must bring it to the polling place and present it to the poll worker who signs you in. They will discard it, and you will be allowed to fill out a provisional ballot.
  • New Jersey: You do not need a form of identification unless you are voting in a county for the first time.
  • Delaware: You must bring a form of identification, otherwise you will be asked to sign an affidavit attesting to your place of residence and identification.

What considerations are there for voters with special needs?

All three states have laws protecting voters with special needs, and providing them with help at the polling places. Here are some guidelines for those who want help when they arrive at a polling place:

How can I practice COVID-19 safety?

  • Keep your distance from others. The CDC recommends at least six feet of distance.
  • Wear a mask. Put it on before arriving at the polling location and don't take it off until you leave. Keep your nose and mouth covered, and don't touch your face.
  • Wash your hands. Whenever possible, wash your hands, especially after touching surfaces or items that others may have touched. If possible, bring hand sanitizer and use it frequently.
  • Don't bring anyone of non-voting age with you to your polling location, and try to go during non-peak hours (polls tend to be busiest first thing in the morning, over lunch hours and after work).
With both sides calling this the most important presidential election in decades, you want to make certain that your vote is counted. NBCLX's Clark Fouraker has a checklist of the five most important things you should do to make sure your ballot doesn't get disqualified this November.

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For more information on planning your vote from NBC News, click here.

The 2020 presidential election will be one of the most consequential in our lifetime. Make your voice heard and register to vote. To find out how, click here.

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