It is 46 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.
However, the election begins today, at least in Minnesota and South Dakota.
The Land of 10,000 Lakes and The Mount Rushmore State are, I believe, the first to open early voting this year and both began today.
Notes I made several weeks ago said New Jersey and Vermont start on Saturday, but I’ve had trouble finding verification of those online.
The thing is, outside the fact Election Day is Nov. 6 across the country, voting laws and procedures vary widely and wildly from state to state. Most states allow early voting, but not all. Some require you to give an excuse for why you cannot vote Election Day, which is referred to as absentee voting. Some states’ early voting lasts only a few days and some a few weeks.
Why should I care?
Early voting and absentee voting have been pushed through state legislative bodies for the purpose of making it easier to vote. One 12-hour period on a weekday is tough for everyone to meet, but most people can – if they will – find a time to vote when the option includes several days, especially if weekends are included.
But you should consider voting early even if you’re certain you’ll be free Nov. 6 because, let’s face it, things happen.
In many parts of the country, early November can bring winter storms. Anywhere can be beset by miserable if not dangerous weather conditions. On a personal level, people get sick or must attend to family emergencies, a car breaks down or one might simply forget about it.
Then there is the more nefarious issue.
Many states have put into place extra barriers that make it more likely you’ll be denied the right to vote. For example, make sure you carry a valid photo identification, even if you think you shouldn’t have to present it. Make sure you do no politicking once you pass the posted limits. I would advise you to not talk politics at all once you get to the polling place.
But, should you have a problem while attempting to vote early, you have time to remedy the situation and vote later. Should it happen on Election Day, you might never get your votes cast.
(This is a great time to remind you to make sure you’re registered to vote. Click this link, enter some information about yourself and confirm your status. Do this even if you know you’re registered because some states have been aggressively purging rolls of those who have not voted recently and mistakes have happened.)
When can I vote?
That’s where you’ll need to do a little research.
Vote.org offers an early voting calendar, of sorts, at this site. It also has links to local offices that should help you. If you have trouble with these, just call your county offices or local media.