If any election has ever needed lighted directional arrows, professional tour guides or audio instructions, it’s this one. 

Between the surge of interest in mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting questions on whether the U.S. Postal Service can meet the demand, and the reduction in polling locations, voters planning to participate in the contentious Nov. 3 general presidential election are struggling to make decisions on how, when and where to cast their ballots. 

The most urgent “when” is Tuesday, the deadline to register to vote in Maryland, as well as New Jersey and Virginia. The TerpsVote Coalition makes that step easy, directing students to register at umd.turbovote.org. Not far behind: Requests for a mail-in ballot in Maryland must be received by Oct. 20, and early voting in the state begins six days later. 

For those registered locally, the Xfinity Center on campus will serve as a voting center for early and day-of voting. The Division of Information Technology has added a voting resources layer to maps.umd.edu, which pinpoints the Xfinity Center and USPS mailboxes in College Park that can be used to mail in ballots.

Sasha Marquez ’21, student co-chair of TerpsVote, said now is the time to learn about the candidates and their positions. She recommended visiting ballotready.org, which provides information on local referendums and candidates’ stances on important topics such as health care and COVID-19 response, along with links to their websites, as well as vote411.org, hosted by the League of Women Voters. 

Voters awaiting their ballot by email or mail can check the status online. A warning: Voters who request a mail-in ballot, then decide to vote in person instead must complete a form and vote using a provisional ballot. Those ballots are counted last, after the local board of elections confirms that the voter didn’t return the mail-in ballot. The same is true for people who show up at the polls to register: They can, but will be handed a provisional ballot.

But being counted last is better than being left out entirely. Just follow these steps to ensure you get a voice.