Editor’s Note: This piece is a staff editorial which includes the staff’s opinions of the importance of voting and an analysis of races up and down the ballot this November. Any views expressed in the editorial are the opinions of the entire staff.
To review our editorial policy, which includes our blotter policy, click here.
The basis of democracy stands behind elections and our right to vote. While voting was at one point a privilege for wealthy white men, the battles led by people of color and women have made voting a right with the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Arguably, now 100 years after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, this upcoming election is the most consequential of our lives thus far. With such a strong and powerful history behind one of the largest aspects of American democracy and having a voice, educating oneself for elections, especially local ones, is of the utmost importance.
Even more important, especially this year due to the pandemic, is to plan early and plan ahead to exercise your right.
Here is what you need to know before you go to the polls (or mailbox or election bureau) on Election Day:
1. Check your registration.
While the voter registration deadline for Pennsylvania has passed, click here to check your voter status. If you live outside of Pennsylvania and are registered with your state, go to the National Association of Secretaries of State website and select your state to check your registration.
The website will also list the voting districts for the United States Congress, State House and State Senate races.
2. Make a voting plan.
There are several ways to cast your ballot for this election. To find all of this information listed on one website, we recommend IWillVote.com, which provides locations for all of the following voting options.
The deadline to request an absentee or mail-in ballot is Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. While absentee ballots require a reason in the application, no reason is necessary to apply for a mail-in ballot. If you are sending your ballot via mail, the ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and must be received by the election office by Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.
Absentee or mail-in ballots can be sent via mail or dropped off at the Butler County Board of Elections in the county courthouse on West Diamond Street in Butler.
Also at the Board of Elections, voters can vote early from now until Oct. 27. This opportunity is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Make sure to review ID requirements for your state, as some voting locations (including those in Pennsylvania) may require an ID if you are voting at the site for the first time.
3. Research your candidates.
A responsible voter ensures that they have researched the candidates in their local elections before sending in their mail-in ballots or visiting their polling location on election day—or during early voting windows (as long as you have applied for your ballot by Oct. 27).
In the age of technology, it has never been easier for voters to find information on candidates and elections than it is now. What laws a candidate supports, which way a candidate leans on key issues, it is all online. You just need to know where to find it.
Ballotpedia is your one-stop-shop for all things political in the late stages of this election cycle.
Ballotpedia, a self-proclaimed “hub for state political coverage of elections, policies, and more,” has a website dedicated solely to Pennsylvania elections. The site covers topics such as absentee and mail-in voting, requirements for voting and deadlines for voting for this election. Additionally, the site covers early voting in the state and all ID requirements for voting in-person or through the mail.
With sidebar tabs for the Presidential election and general 2020 election, the site features a comprehensive list of all requirements to have fulfilled before election day and all the candidates that will be running in said elections.
However, the state and local elections are just as important as the presidential election. While these elections are on a smaller scale, that does not make the state and local elections any less important.
In Pennsylvania, six local races will impact you for the next two to four years to varying degrees.
The U.S. House Pennsylvania District 16 election will see Republican incumbent Mike Kelly face off against Democratic challenger Kristy Gnibus for the congressional seat in Pennsylvania’s 16th district.
Democratic incumbent Josh Shapiro will face competition from Republican Heather Heidelbaugh, Green Party candidate Richard Weiss and Libertarian Daniel Wassmer for the position of Attorney General in Pennsylvania.
The last choice lies in Pennsylvania’s 10th State House District. Republican incumbent Aaron Bernstine is challenged by Democrat Kolbe Cole and United Party candidate Johnathan Pfeffer. As arguably one of the most impactful races in this election, Cole has made event stops in Slippery Rock during this campaign cycle, and Pfeffer is an SRU alumnus.
In these smaller races, a small number of votes could change the outcome of a race. While these smaller races seemingly do not come with the glitz and glamour of national races, every vote matters.
Before you mail in your ballot or head to the polls on election day — or before — make sure you complete your civic duty after you get informed on each and every race in your state and county.
4. If voting in person, stay safe and follow CDC guidelines.
Although specific polling locations may have various guidelines of their own, the CDC recommends those voting in person to wear a mask at all times, maintain social distancing, follow visual cues about masks and foot traffic and not to greet others or poll workers with any type of physical contact.
Polls may offer early voting hours or extended hours where the voter crowds may be smaller throughout the day. Check your local polling location for their hours.
The CDC recommends voters wash their hands before and after arriving and leaving the polls, use alcohol-based sanitizer at the polling location after touching high contact surfaces, cover coughs or sneezes with the inside of your elbow, wear a mask and maintain the six feet required for social distancing.
The Nov. 3 election is arguably the most consequential in our lives thus far. Whether you are voting with an absentee ballot, a mail-in-ballot or in person, your vote and your voice are important to the democracy that voting was established on.
We are in the final days of this historical election, and every person’s vote has a direct impact on local, state and federal races that will alter our lives, especially as many current SRU students graduate and enter the workforce. Get informed, make a plan and get out to vote.