voter guide

Here's How to Vote by Mail or in Person in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia

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It’s not Election Day; it’s voting season and you have some decisions to make about how to cast your vote. 

Start making plans now on whether you’ll vote by mail, in person at an early voting center or in person on Election Day, officials say. 

The coronavirus pandemic, warnings about the capacity of the U.S. Postal Service, and a political fight over who gets to vote and how are complicating the 2020 presidential election. 

Here’s info on how you can cast your ballot in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Stay tuned as officials update your options by the day, including by adding drop boxes for mail-in ballots in some areas. 

DC 

First, check that you’re registered to vote. If you’re not registered or need to update your name or address, you can register in person at early voting centers or on Election Day.

In D.C. you can vote in person on Election Day, at an early voting center or by mail. Every voter will receive a mail-in ballot without needing to request it. You don’t need to provide a reason to vote by mail, as some states require. 

Mail-In Voting: The D.C. Board of Elections says it will send a mail-in ballot to every voter in the first week of October. You can return your ballot by mail or at a mail-in ballot dropoff site. If you choose to mail it back, it must be postmarked by Election Day and arrive no later than Nov. 10.

Go here for a list of drop box sites.

Early Voting in Person: You can vote early in D.C. at a vote center from Tuesday, Oct. 27 to Monday, Nov. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Here's a list of early voting centers. For the Nov. 3, 2020, election, you can vote at any center. Check the hours and wait times at your location here.

Voting in Person on Election Day: You can vote in person on Nov. 3 at one of more than 80 vote centers. The centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Here's a full list of Election Day voting centers.

D.C. is facing a shortage of poll workers as the pandemic continues. Mayor Muriel Bowser suggested that the Board of Elections, an independent agency, have city workers work the polls. Also, she called for the board to open all 144 polling sites that are usually open, not just a limited number of vote centers. Neither change had been made as of mid-August.

“We have no control over what happens with the U.S. Postal Service, so we have to make sure we have robust opportunities for people to vote in other ways,” she said Aug. 17. 

For more information, see the D.C. Board of Elections website.

A crucial design mistake in an election mailer caused confusion for D.C. voters. News4's Mark Segraves reports.

Maryland

First, check that you’re registered to vote. If you’re not registered, you have until 9 p.m. Oct 13 to register online. You also can register in person at early voting centers or on Election Day.

In Maryland you can vote in person on Election Day, at an early voting center or by mail. You must request a mail-in ballot; a ballot will not automatically be sent to you. 

Voting Sites in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia

Early voting centers are highlighted in blue or purple. Not all voting sites in Virginia are listed in the map. Click here to find more polling centers in Virginia.

Source: Maryland State Board of Elections
Credit: Anisa Holmes/NBC Washington

Mail-In Voting: Any registered voter may vote early by mail; you don’t need to provide a reason, as you have to in some states. Go to the State Board of Elections’ website to request a mail-in ballot via online form. You also have the option to print a form and return it by mail, fax or email. Your request for a mail-in ballot must be received, not just mailed, by Oct. 20. Also, in some locations, you can put it in a ballot drop box. 

You can choose to have your mail-in ballot mailed or faxed to you, or be able to download it online. Ballots are set to be sent or posted to the website about three weeks before the election.

Your mail-in ballot must be mailed or hand-delivered to an early voting center, polling place or drop box. If you mail your ballot to return it, the envelope must be postmarked on or before Election Day. It must be received by your local board of elections by 10 a.m. Nov. 13. 

The envelope for mail-in ballots has a privacy flap that folds over so people can’t see voters’ information through the envelope.

The Board of Elections says voters must sign the voter oath or the vote won’t count.

Drop boxes will be locked and monitored by cameras 24/7, and workers will empty the boxes at least twice a day.

The Board of Elections posted its list of ballot drop boxes here.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that due to the pandemic there will be statewide voting centers rather than counties opening the typical number of polling places. That's good news for Prince George's County, where fewer than 40-percent of their polling workers are expected to volunteer this November. News4's Tracee Wilkins reports there are still some staffing concerns.

Early Voting in Person: Early voting centers will be open Oct. 26 through Nov. 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you’re in line by 8 p.m., you will be able to vote. During early voting, you can vote at any early voting center in your county; you aren’t limited to only going to your assigned polling place.

COVID-19 safety measures are in place at polling places. News4's Chris Gordon has a look at what to expect if you plan to vote in person.

Voting in Person on Election Day: On Election Day, you can vote at any voting center in your county; you aren’t limited to only going to your usual assigned polling place. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you’re in line by 8 p.m., you will be able to vote. Here's a list of Election Day voting centers.

Montgomery County officials say they are trying to make sure people who feel unconformable voting in person during the pandemic or mailing in their vote have another secure option. News4's Darcy Spencer explains the plan to get voters access to ballot drop boxes.

Gov. Larry Hogan agreed on Tuesday, Aug. 11, to open voting centers instead of opening all traditional polling places. He initially ordered officials to open all polling places but was faced with a shortage of poll workers. In Prince George’s County, fewer than 40% of polling workers are expected to volunteer in November because of the pandemic. 

For more information, see the Maryland Board of Elections website.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks are having a public disagreement about how people should vote in November. News4's Chris Gordon reports.

Virginia 

First, check that you’re registered to vote. If you’re not registered, you have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

The deadline initially was Oct. 13, but a federal judge extended it by 48 hours after the state's online voter registration system went down because of a cable that was accidentally severed. Go here for more information.

Your registration application needs to be received online or postmarked by the deadline. Note that Virginia, unlike D.C. and many states, does not allow people to register to vote on Election Day. 

In Virginia you can vote in person on Election Day, in person early or by mail. Voters need to request what the state Department of Elections calls a mail-in absentee ballot; it will not be sent automatically. You do not need a reason to vote by mail, as some states require. 

Mail-In Voting: If you want to vote by mail, you need to request a mail-in ballot by Oct. 23. You can do so online or using a paper application form. Ballots will be mailed out starting in late September. Then, your ballot must be postmarked before Election Day and received by noon on Nov. 6. The time between when it must be postmarked and when it must be received is shorter than in some other states.

Gov. Ralph Northam proposed on Aug. 18 letting localities set up ballot drop boxes. He also proposed setting aside $2 million to cover the cost of return postage on all absentee ballots. In September, both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly signed off on these changes and Northam signed them into law.

Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter Drew Wilder reports on the opening day of Virginia's General Assembly special session.

Early Voting in Person: You can vote early in person from Sept. 18 through Oct. 31 at “your local registrar’s office or a satellite voting location,” the elections department’s website says. Here's where to find a registrar's office in your area.

Voting in Person on Election Day: Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone in line by 7 p.m. will able to vote. 

Virginia also needs poll workers.

For more information, see the Virginia Department of Elections website.

The Voter Participation Center apologizes for sending out voting mailers with incorrect information.

West Virginia 

First, check that you’re registered to vote. If you’re not registered, you have until Oct. 13 to register online, by mail or in person. Note that West Virginia, unlike D.C. and many states, does not allow people to register to vote on Election Day. 

In West Virginia you can vote in person on Election Day, in person early or by mail. Voters need to request what the Secretary of State calls an absentee ballot. Anyone who wants to vote absentee needs to provide a reason, including concerns about COVID-19. 

Mail-In Voting: If you want to vote by mail, you need to submit an absentee ballot request by Oct. 28. It needs to be filled in online or received by email, fax or mail. 

Once you receive your ballot, it must be hand-delivered to your county clerk’s office by Nov. 2 or postmarked by Nov. 3. It must be received by Nov. 9. 

Early Voting in Person: You can vote early in person from Oct. 21 to Oct. 31 at your county courthouse, an annex or a designated community voting location. The sites will be open during business hours and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Voting in Person on Election Day: Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Secretary of State Mac Warner said he wants every voting precinct in the state to be open after the number was reduced for the primary, WVNews.com reported. Poll workers are still needed. 

For more information, see the website of the secretary of state's Election Division.

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