A voter’s guide: Planning to vote in person? Be sure to plan, strategize, and bring lots of snacks

With Election Day coming up, here’s a tip guide for what to do before you go to vote, what to take with you and how to stay safe while you’re at your polling place.

Like millions of Americans, I plan to vote in person. Whether you do that early or on Election Day, knowing how to prepare can make all the difference 

With potentially long voter wait times, some that have already been as long as 10 hours in Georgia, research and planning before getting to the polls is more important than ever. While we hope no one has to wait more than a few minutes to cast their ballot, there are ways to make that wait much safer and more enjoyable.

In-person voting will ramp up this coming week as many polling locations open for longer hours and on weekends. For those who’ve been meaning to vote early, time is running out! Take advantage of these longer hours to reach your polling site before or after work or in between classes if you’re a student.

Whatever your in-person plan, the Student PIRGs New Voters Project has you covered with this tip guide: 

  • What you should do before you go to vote.
  • What you should take with you.
  • How you should stay safe while you’re at your polling place.

Before you go:

  • Make sure you know where your polling location is and what hours it’s open. Look yours up or go to the website of the secretary of state office in your state.
  • Make sure you know your state’s ID requirements, if any. Some states require a driver’s license or state ID with a photo. Some accept a utility bill or bank statement in your name with your current address. Some don’t require any ID. Again, look up your requirements.
  • Prepare a sample ballot or at least write down your choices for all your local candidate races and issues. This will allow  you to fill out your ballot faster at the polling site, lowering the amount of time you have to spend inside. Ballotpedia offers  a list of candidates/ issues on the ballot for every community. 
  • Check the weather forecast so you can wear appropriate clothing.
  • Slip on comfortable shoes.
  • Use the restroom right before you leave your home.
  • Don’t wear gear supporting a particular candidate or political cause. At least 21 states have laws against apparel-related electioneering, including clothes, buttons, etc., that could sway other voters. Besides possibly avoiding arguments with your fellow voters, this will ensure you don’t get turned away from your polling place if you can’t take off the item or cover up the words or image.

What to consider taking with you:

  • Photo ID, copy of utility bill or something else that meets any ID requirements in your state.
  • Face mask.
  • Your sample ballot or list of who and what you’re voting for.
  • A portable phone charger or two (fully charged), including your lightning or micro USB connection cord.
  • Food: Snacks, a sandwich, some fruit. 
  • Thermos of coffee and/or (hopefully reusable) bottles of water.
  • Hand sanitizer or disposable sanitizing wipes.
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Tissues/paper towels.
  • Lightweight folding seat.
  • A book or reading tablet.
  • Earbuds to enjoy music or an audio book and block out any annoying conversations.
  • Sunglasses
  • Umbrella, if it may rain.
  • Ziploc sandwich bag for your phone in case it rains and you’re waiting outdoors.
  • Paper fan or cordless fan if temperatures will get warm.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Extra jacket, hat, gloves if temperatures will get cold.

How you should stay safe while you’re at your polling place:

  • Wear your mask the entire time you’re in line and while you’re voting.
  • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet — or maybe more if anyone around you doesn’t have a mask on.
  • Don’t touch common surfaces such as door handles. If you must, break out your hand sanitizer.
  • After you vote with touchscreens or voting pens, use your hand sanitizer or wipes liberally before you touch any of your other belongings or get back in your vehicle.