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During a normal year, the last week of September would be an eternity away from Election Day, but 2020 is not a normal year, and for many, Election Day is now.

Around 65 million Americans have requested or received absentee ballots so far, according to the New York Times, and this year is projected to set a record for absentee votes.

For college students, however, it’s important to not put the cart before the horse. Many have never voted before, and October is the month of voter registration deadlines.

Missouri has the earliest deadline of nearby states, with online and in-person registrations needing to be in by 5 p.m. Oct. 7.

“You can register to vote in our office by filling out the application— bring your identification with you,” Nodaway County Clerk Melinda Patton said in an email. “You can also go to the Missouri Secretary of State’s website and register online. However at some point, you will still need to show your identification to our office or the election worker at the precinct you vote at.”

In Nebraska, the deadline for registering online or by mail is Oct. 16, but in-person registration continues until 5 p.m. Oct. 23. All registration must be submitted or postmarked by Oct. 13 in Kansas and Oct. 24 in Iowa.

The deadline for requesting an absentee or mail-in ballot in Missouri is 5 p.m. Oct. 21. Patton said Nodaway County sent out its first ballots Sept. 22.

In the first two days, Patton said the Nodaway County Clerk’s office sent out 441 ballots. Early voting in person was also opened, and 49 people voted in the first two days. Patton said typically her office doesn’t see that many voters until the last two weeks of voting.

In surrounding states, the ballot request deadlines coincide or shortly follow registration deadlines. Ballots must be requested by Oct. 24 in Iowa, Oct. 23 in Nebraska and Oct. 27 in Kansas.

It would behoove first-time voters to register well in advance of the deadline in order to have enough time to request a ballot, receive it and return it.

All ballots in all states must be received before polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 3.

In spite of congressional legislation halting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s cost-cutting measures that were believed to be causing mail delays, the United States Postal Service was still getting slower throughout September.

In Missouri, only absentee ballots can be returned in person, and absentee ballots — unlike mail-in ballots, which can be requested by anyone — require an excuse. Patton urged voters with mail-in ballots to request them and return them as soon as possible to ensure they get collected and counted on time.

However, in Nebraska and Iowa, special drop boxes have been placed for mail-in ballots to be more expediently delivered. In Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas, ballots can also be returned directly to a local election office.

“I would encourage voters to start making a voting plan,” Patton said. “Whether that is in person or absentee or mail-in, there are options, but not if you wait until the last minute.”

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