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Have a say in your future: Make sure you’re registered to vote

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The nation is approaching an unprecedented election on Nov. 3. Make sure your vote is counted! Exercising your power starts with getting registered to vote and making sure that your voter registration address is up to date. It only takes five minutes — yet that short amount of time can shape the future of the country and the world you live in.

“The biggest way your voice can be heard is voting,” says UC Davis undergraduate Alexandra Olvera, majoring in political science and Chicanx Studies. “I know it can seem like there are a lot of steps, but if you don’t care about voting, other people do — and they’re going to be choosing who makes the decisions that affect your life on a daily basis.”

Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t wait until the last minute

New voters, in particular, tend to wait until the last minute to get things done. In this pandemic-era election, however, state officials and voting rights groups are urging voters to plan ahead. That extends to registering to vote. The deadline for registering online in California is Oct. 19, 2020. But by registering sooner, you’ll have more flexibility about when and how you vote.

The state is automatically sending every voter registered by Oct. 19 an optional vote-by-mail ballot. Voters can fill out and return the ballot as soon as they receive it, right up until Election Day. Or they can choose to cast their vote at the polls.

The earlier you register, the sooner your ballot will get to you and the more time you’ll have to return it, says Karen Hedges, UCLA deputy director of student life, who leads campus efforts to increase student voting and access to the polls. “Mail-in ballots are starting to be mailed out Oct. 5. You want to be one of the ones going out in that first batch if you can,” said Hedges. “Registering early ensures ease of voting. If you wait until the last minute, it gets a little more complicated.”

New voter? Decide where you want to register

Make sure you register at an address where you can receive important election mail — including your ballot. If you plan to vote in person, you’ll be assigned a polling place near where you’re registered, so make sure it’s somewhere you can get to on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Another fact that’s good to know: If your family includes college students over age, where they register won’t affect their financial aid or residency for tuition purposes.

Registered or voted before? Check that your address is current

Updating your information is easy. Simply re-register with your current address so your mail-in ballot gets to you and your polling place reflects where you live. Not sure if or where you’re registered? Check it here.

Make a plan for how you’ll cast your ballot

Do you plan to vote by mail or in person? Will you vote early or on Election Day? With all the variables of a pandemic election, planning in advance for how and when you’ll vote will help you avoid any surprises and ensure that your voice is heard.

Keep your vote plan in mind when filling out your registration. If you plan to vote by mail and don’t live in California, or are registering close to the Oct. 19 online registration deadline and want to be sure you receive a mail-in ballot, chose the option to vote by mail when filling out your registration. Check other state’s rules for voting by mail.

Help get others registered

Share this information with friends and family, and help them to register. “I feel like voting is a secret formula I have to tell everyone about,” said Olvera. “Young people are understanding how important it is to speak up for what we believe in, and that power lies in voting.”

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