2020 marks a critical moment in America’s history: We find ourselves at the junction of two deadly pandemics – COVID-19 and systemic racism. The senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Marcus-David Peters, and countless others, have thrown into stark relief the systemic inequities in this country. One thing is clear: Going back to “normal” is not an option. We need change, and we will use everything in our toolbox to get it.

Voting is one of the most important and impactful actions you can take to make your voice heard. If you’re eligible to vote, now is the time to show up. Voting this year may be different, and a little bit of preparation goes a long way. Here are five tips to help guide you through this election:

  1. Make sure your voter registration is updated and accurate

Studies have shown that ballot rejection disproportionately impacts younger voters and voters of color, who tend to move more frequently or have unreliable postal service. To ensure that your vote counts, verify your voter information is up to date by Oct. 13, especially if you recently moved. Either call your local registrar, call the Department of Elections at 800-552-9745, or check online at elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation. If you are registered to vote at your college but are taking online classes from home, you can still vote absentee by mail or in person in your registered jurisdiction, or update your registration to your current home address.

  1. Vote early

According to a report by NPR, Virginia led the nation in highest percentage of absentee ballots rejected for arriving past the deadline for the 2020 presidential primaries, often through no fault of the voters. This alarming number underlines the need to make a plan to vote and do so as early as possible.

Early voting in Virginia (through in-person absentee ballots) is available now and will go until Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. Virginians voting absentee by mail or in person are no longer required to provide an excuse to vote early. Voters will also not be required to get a witness to sign their absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 elections, thanks to an ACLU lawsuit.

If you requested an absentee ballot, fill it out accurately and mail it back right away to avoid unexpected delays. You can also hand-deliver your ballot to your local registrar’s office or satellite locations by 7 p.m. on Election Day or use the ballot drop boxes outside. Make sure to call your registrar's office to confirm office hours and locations for drop boxes, if available, in your area.

  1. Know your voting options and create a plan to vote

There are many ways you can cast your ballot in the Nov. 3 general elections.

  • Vote absentee by mail
  • Vote absentee in person
  • Vote on Election Day

Check our 2020 Voters’ Rights Guide to help you decide which option is best and safest for you. No matter how you choose to vote, mark your calendar with important deadlines and make a plan to vote as early as possible.

  1. Call your local registrar’s office for the most up-to-date information

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives and may lead to changes with your local registrar’s office. Call ahead of time and confirm specific information such as polling locations, operating hours, the availability of ballot drop boxes, language assistance or curbside voting. You can find your local registrar’s office here.

  1. Volunteer to be a poll worker or encourage others to vote

The health of our democracy and the success of our election depend on volunteers who staff polling locations, assist voters and support election officials in processing ballots. This Election Day will be a state holiday and volunteering to be a poll worker would be a great way to celebrate the right to vote and lend a helping hand to our democracy. Poll workers are essential. You can apply to be an Officer of Election here.

This year, Virginia went from one of the hardest states in which to vote to leading the South in making voting more accessible. These critical reforms would not have happened without the relentless work of organizers across the Commonwealth. Together, we have chipped away at the anti-Black injustices that have been woven into the voting process for over 100 years. And we won’t stop now. More importantly, Virginians should be aware that this year’s voting reforms are not permanent, they could change with a changing legislature. In order to protect all Virginians' voting rights, we must pass a constitutional amendment that guarantees all Virginia citizens 18 and over the Right to Vote. We must continue to speak out and demand justice, because an America where Black lives matter is worth fighting for.