How to Vote by Mail

It’s 2020, so, naturally, the post office has become politicized . In particular, the president insisted on the fact, in order to simplify voting by mail during a pandemic, it is an attempt to fix the elections, because it is fraught with fraud – approval, for which there is no real evidence . The good news is that states are largely ignoring this: 46 states are now offering every eligible voter the option to mail their ballot, according to the Open Source Election Technology Institute , a nonprofit that researches electoral technology. Here’s what you need to know about mail-order voting in a year of contentious presidential elections and a global pandemic.

The basics

Before getting into the little things, you first need to make sure that you are indeed registered to vote. It won’t take more than a few minutes to confirm this, and here’s how to do it . If you find you are not registered to vote, here’s what you need to do to fix it, including online, mail, and in-person registration options.

Then check your state’s absentee voting laws . Thanks to new legislation, court cases and COVID-19, government policy is constantly evolving. The easiest way to get up to speed quickly is to type in “[your state] absentee voting” into Google. For example, this is what comes up when I search for New York State. State polling station information is usually up-to-date with specific instructions on what you need to do to request an email vote.

Two more things to consider when voting by mail, courtesy of Ryan Deto , editor of Pittsburgh City Paper :

  • Receive your ballot as soon as possible to be sure / validate the count and to give the District Electoral Councils enough time to prepare the count.
  • Be patient when it comes to election night results. For example, in Pennsylvania, mail-order ballot counting may start at 7 a.m. on Election Day. While it is technically possible to get results tonight, don’t expect them to come sooner.

Voting by Mail: Rules of Procedure by State

With all the recent updates to the state’s mail-order rules, your first destination should still be your state’s election commission website. But for a quick overview, here are the latest findings from the Open Source Election Technology Institute :

  • While technically all 50 states and the District of Columbia offer mail-order voting, four states ( Missouri , Mississippi , Tennessee, and Texas ) require voters to have an “excuse” to do so. The remaining 46 states have made this opportunity available to all voters.
  • If you live or vote in Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, or Texas, this National Conference of State Legislature chart lists all acceptable “excuses” for requesting an absentee ballot. Each of them includes the fact that there was no constituency on election day, as well as illness or disability. A recent Texas Supreme Court ruling determined that lack of immunity to COVID-19 is not a valid excuse to ask for a vote by mail.
  • Previously, another 12 states demanded “justification” for voting by mail, but eased restrictions thanks to COVID-19. These are: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia .
  • Currently, in five states ( Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah ), all elections are held exclusively by mail .


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