How To Vote By Mail This Fall

How To Vote By Mail This Fall

How To Vote By Mail This Fall

Here's how to request that absentee ballot you've been meaning to get to.

Here's how to request that absentee ballot you've been meaning to get to.

Text: Sophie Lee

So you've registered to vote but you're away from home. Or you don't want to increase your risk of catching coronavirus at the polls.  Or, you simply think voting by mail would be easier for you. All are perfectly valid reasons to request a mail-in ballot for the upcoming presidential election (and any elections thereafter).

Where You Can Vote By Mail

First things first, mail-in ballots are formally known as absentee ballots and are fairly easy to get your hands on. Due to the current pandemic, some states, like California, have even transitioned entirely to mail-in voting. Most states are making everyone eligible for absentee voting. Only a few are still requiring you to include some sort of "reason" on your application. We're looking at you New York.

Sending In Your Application

To see what the rules are where you live simply head to Can I Vote and select your state from the drop down menu. The U.S. Vote Foundation also a wonderful tool to help you request an absentee ballot, whether you are in the states, overseas, or serving in the military. So does Plus1Vote. Absentee ballot requests should only take a few minutes of your time, whether you fill them out online or send your request through the mail. Just remember to keep an eye on the deadlines. If you hope to vote by mail this November, send in your request as soon as possible.

Filling Out Your Ballot

The most important thing to keep in mind when voting by mail is that you only actually get one paper ballot. If you mess up at the polls, a worker can let you know what you've done wrong or give you a new sheet of paper. This is not so for absentee voting. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly. No coloring outside the lines, voting for more than one candidate in a single race, or whatever other foolishness. Make sure you put your official signature where specified on the envelope. Prepare it for return perfectly. No pressure!

Sending The Ballot Back

Included with your absentee ballot will be a deadline for actually putting it back in a mailbox. It's best to mail it in well before that deadline, especially due to the current standing of the post office. The pandemic and new federal regulations have slowed down the United States Postal Service significantly. If you're worried about getting your ballot in before the polls close, you can drop it off in person at designated drop-boxes, polling stations, or precincts. Consult your state's Board of Elections website to find these locations.

Did You Change Your Mind At The Last Minute?

So you requested an absentee ballot but decided you actually want to vote in person. That's fine, but there's one very important thing to remember. You MUST bring your absentee ballot with you when you go to your local polling station. In order to prevent voter fraud, poll workers cannot allow you to vote at their station without your original ballot. When you arrive, ballot in hand, they will either have you fill out your original absentee ballot and turn it in, or issue you a new ballot.

Moving Forward

All in all, voting isn't supposed to be difficult. Though the pandemic has made life harder in an endless number of ways, it has also provided a promising shift towards greater accessibility during elections. Voting by mail means less long lines and greater access to assistance for those who find polling stations challenging to navigate (think about those with disabilities, language barriers, or even people who just need a moment to think over a difficult decision). Here's to hoping that even after the pandemic passes, some of our strides towards an more equitable democracy linger.

Credits: Photo from Plus1Vote.


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