How To Vote By Mail
In the 2016 election, only 60% of the eligible voting population cast their ballot. It is incredibly important to exercise your right to vote, even amidst a global pandemic. While going to the polls on election day may seem daunting, you can still vote by mail. For the purposes of this post, I am focusing exclusively on voting in the general election in November (not to be confused with primary voting happening right now in many states). Here’s how to vote by mail in the upcoming November election.
US Absentee Voting
Absentee voting is another way of saying voting by mail (though the terminology is changing as rules change due to the coronavirus). While every state offers absentee voting, the rules for each state are different. Many states are making it easier to vote by mail this year because of the Coronavirus and some states historically run their elections completely by mail. Absentee voting rules during the pandemic seem to be changing by the day. So it’s important to pay attention to your local government for up to date information. Absentee voting and mail in voting are often used interchangeably. As more states relax the rules around absentee voting the terms may continue to change. But ultimately it refers to a ballot sent through the mail.
How To Vote By Mail
submit an application for a mail in ballot
Some states are automatically sending absentee ballot forms or applications for an absentee ballot because of the coronavirus. To be sure, click here and see the best way to vote by mail in your state. Many states require you to request an application form, which you must fill out and return to receive a mail in ballot. There are some states that are still requiring an excuse beyond Coronavirus to vote by mail, here’s a breakdown.
how to fill out vote by mail ballot
It’s really important to fill out and sign your ballot correctly so that it can be properly counted. If the ballot states to “fill in the oval” make sure you fill it in and don’t put a check mark for example. Similarly, make sure you pay attention to signature requirements. Typically this is on the envelope and not on the actual ballot, there may also be rules about having a witness sign your ballot (though a lot of these rules are currently being challenged in court). Make sure you read the instructions carefully.
return your ballot
Return your absentee ballot as soon as possible. The postal service is asking customers to provide up to two weeks for your ballot to arrive, which means sending it in by October 21 at the latest. Many towns and cities also have ballot drop-off locations, either in designated drop boxes or at a polling place. Absentee ballot deadlines for every state can be found here.
how to track your ballot
You can either search your state’s name and “track my absentee ballot” or go to Vote.org and scroll down on this page to where it says “jump directly to your state.” Click on your state to get more information on how to track your ballot.
Voting By Mail FAQ
HOW TO CHECK IF I’M REGISTERED TO VOTE BY MAIL
If you click here and enter your address you can verify if you are a registered voter.
How to register to vote by mail
You need to apply for an absentee ballot in order to vote by mail. While some states may be sending them preemptively, you can make sure you get your application to vote by mail here. It’s important to note, you need to apply to get the absentee ballot, fill that out and return it, and then you will get the absentee ballot to vote by mail.
how to check my vote by mail status
You can check the status of your mail in ballot on your states election website. If you google your state’s initials with “mail in ballot status” it should come up easily. You can also go here at Vote.org and scroll down to “jump directly to your state” where you can find info on how to track your mail in ballot.
how to turn in vote by mail ballot
It’s important to return your mail ballot as soon as you finish completing it. The post office is recommending you give your ballot two weeks to arrive which means returning it in mid October. If you are returning by mail whether or not you need postage varies by state, however the postal service is saying they will deliver mail ballots regardless of whether or not it has enough postage. Many cities and towns also have a ballot drop-off location. You can find important absentee ballot deadlines for every state here.
how to change the vote by mail address
The ability to change your vote by mail address varies by state. Some allow you to do it online while others require it be done in person at the DMV, a local election office, local voter registration office or town hall.
Some additional helpful resources
Vote 411 provides all the election information you need on how to vote including what will be on your ballot, polling places, voter registration information and more.
Vote.org provides a list of absentee voting rules by state.
Vote Save America has information on voter registration, key dates by state, and vote by mail information.