Day 51: Plan Your Vote

Click on the image to go to NBC’s “Plan Your Vote” page.

NBC News has come out with a great interactive map that makes it easier for each of us to make a plan to vote.  Voting procedures vary from state to state, but, by summarizing the answers to four time-sensitive questions, this map (which is actually 4 clickable maps) supplies nearly all the information voters need to commit to a workable, personal plan.

The map’s creators have done us a service by zeroing in on four crucial questions:

    • Can I vote by mail without an excuse?
    • Can I register to vote and cast my ballot on the same day?
    • Can I vote in person before Election Day?
    • After I vote by mail, can I track my ballot?

The different policies of the states with respect to these questions is somewhat shocking.  Only some states allow mail-in voting without a reason, and a small number do not allow voting by mail merely on account of COVID-19.  A handful of states still firmly in Trump’s column (such as South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana) have the most conservative policies.

Overall, though, I’m struck with how many states have greatly streamlined the voting process and made voting more convenient.  (This goes hand in hand with enhanced election security in many states, a topic I hope to cover at a later date.)  For example, over half the states offer a mail-in voting option with no strings attached (including several states which have gone over exclusively to mail-in voting).  Several other states have recently modified their laws to accommodate voters’ legitimate fears over having to vote in person, while the risk of illness or death from COVID19 is still top of mind.

Only a minority of states allow residents to register and cast a ballot on the same day.  As a prerequisite to voting, registration still demands that would-be voters think ahead and exercise initiative and responsibility.  Happily, the NBC map includes a state-level voting guide with all the state-specific deadlines for registering in time.

The fourth question the map addresses (“After I vote by mail, can I track my ballot?”) may be decisive for many worried about the reliability of the Postal Service under the weasely Louis DeJoy.  Most states offer tracking, so that you can be sure that your mail-in ballot arrived.  Illinois doesn’t offer such a service, unfortunately.

Please take a moment to check out NBC’s wonderful “Plan Your Vote” map.   I found it truly helpful.  I hope you do, too.


Day 57: 3,000 Little Elections

The November election is actually some three-thousand little elections. That’s roughly how many counties the United States has. Elections are organized and run at the county level, under the supervision of state and local election officials, using procedures that rival Democrats and Republicans have worked out over hundreds of years.

It’s the very decentralized yet sophisticated character of American voting that’s got the unpopular incumbent president, Donald Trump, running scared. Last time around, spoilers and a shrewd assessment of the electoral map propelled Trump to a legitimate victory over the more popular but complacent Hillary Clinton. Now, having alienated Americans with his crassness and criminality, Trump wants desperately to discourage and cow all of us individual voters, whose sentiments are destined to flow through our ballots and aggregate into those carefully counted county-level returns.

The county totals determine which candidate will be awarded the electoral votes of the state. Electoral votes are proportionate to a state’s population, but only active voters determine which candidate walks off with them.

You must be registered to vote if you want to make Biden president in 2020! Take the first step by visiting This is a non-partisan, bilingual website sponsored by the National Association of Secretaries of State (i.e., the pertinent officials in all fifty states). No matter where you live, this website can direct you toward state-specific voting information that you need. Use it to check whether you are registered, to find your polling place, or obtain the forms needed for early / absentee voting. One can even use it to sign up to become an election worker. It’s super-convenient.

As a resident of Chicago, I’ll be voting in Cook County, Illinois. Clicking through the CanIVote website takes me right to the Illinois State Board of Elections page, where I can find all the deadlines for registration and early voting, review my options for voting in-person, and read the directions for voting by mail. Voting is more complicated than usual this year because of the pandemic, so it’s essential to learn everything one can about the location specific parameters, before this momentous election season begins.

Image: “Map of the USA with county outlines”
adapted by Wapcaplet from a US Census Bureau map,
from this source.