Does the early voter get the proverbial “worm”? We think all voters, whether voting early or absentee or on Election Day, get the “worm.” Voting is our chance to take control over our future by having a say in which leaders will represent us and the issues that will shape important policies for the years to come.

Before Election Day, there are two ways to vote – commonly referred to as early voting and absentee voting. It’s worth noting that absentee voting  is included in the final statistics on early voting. While all states are not required to provide early voting, all states are required to provide absentee voting. Some states have specific rules for determining who can vote absentee (illness, travel, etc.), while others allow all voters to vote absentee. So, be sure to check your eligibility requirements and your state’s deadline for absentee ballot applications. Early voting is a second option now available in many states. While the times and dates, and early voting locations differ from place to place, early voting is generally open to all voters. In still other places, elections are conducted entirely by mail-in ballot, as is the case in Oregon and Washington. The bottom line is: find out what options are available to you, and make sure you vote.

Did you know that approximately 75 percent of our states allow early voting, and early voting is already in full swing in many places. This week alone, from October 22 to October 27, fifteen states begin early voting, and most states that allow it have already started. You can find state-by-state information on early voting dates and rules at the League of Women Voters’ one-stop-shop for election information, www.VOTE411.org.

Aside from voters who are traveling, unable to go to the polls on Election Day, residing as a student in another state, etc., why would a person vote early?

Well, to start, a lot of people think it’s a good idea. Here are some stats from the Washington Post. In 2008, 131 million votes (33 percent) were cast by early voters. In 2012, 40 percent of all voters may cast their ballots before November 6. In the swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and Colorado as many as 80 percent of all voters may be early! In North Carolina alone, 3,000 absentee ballots already were mailed in when this WP article was published.

One good reason to vote early – expecting the unexpected. What if you find yourself unable to make it to your polling place at the last minute on Election Day? Worried about waiting in line? Life is full of unforeseen circumstances, so why not take advantage of early voting? We’ve read that President Barack Obama plans to make history by being the first president to ever take advantage of early voting when he travels to Illinois next week. On social media, celebrities from Magic Johnson to Ashley Judd have been talking up early voting alongside other excited Americans.

So, if you’ve already made up your mind about who to vote for, look up your state’s information on www.VOTE411.org and vote early! We’d love to hear about your experience with early voting in the comments below or on Facebook.

The stakes are high, and our future – the future of our country – will be determined by our votes. Vote Early, Vote Absentee, Or Vote On November 6th!