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Frequently asked mail-in voting questions answered

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all 50 states are offering postal voting options for the 2020 elections. This type of voting is not new in the United States. it goes back to the civil war. And before the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of states allowed registered voters to request postal or postal ballot papers without apology. This year, many states added fear of COVID-19 infection as a legitimate reason to apply for a postal vote, meaning more people than ever can vote by mail. If you’re one of the many people filling out a postal voting application for the first time this year, here are some things you need to know to make sure your vote counts.

. How do I get a postal vote?

The answer to this question varies by state. Voters registered in some states will automatically receive a ballot in the mail, while voters in other states must request their ballot in advance. Your first step should be to confirm that you are registered to vote. You can do this here. If you are not registered, visit your state’s electoral committee page to see if you still have time to register to vote in the 2020 election. We also have a list of registration and mail-in voting deadlines by state here.

Nine states automatically send ballots to voters: Vermont, Nevada, California, New Jersey, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Washington, and Oregon. Washington, DC also sends postal ballot papers to all registered voters. If you live elsewhere, you can request one online through Vote.org.

2. What is the deadline to request a voting slip?

The answer to this question also depends on where you are registered to vote. Some states are required to receive your postal voting request 14 days before polling day, while others have no set deadline. These deadlines also vary depending on how you apply for your voting slip. Submitting your application online or hand-delivery in person can likely buy yourself more time than sending it by mail. You can find the application deadlines for mail-in voting in your state here.

Remember that the application deadline is not the only deadline that you have to meet. After receiving your ballot, you will also need to make sure that it arrives at your local polling office in time for it to be counted. With that in mind, you should consider applying for and submitting your postal ballot as soon as possible.

3. What is the deadline to send a ballot?

Most states fall into one of two categories when it comes to mail-in voting deadlines: the ballot must either arrive by November 3rd or be postmarked by November 3rd. In some states, the ballot must be received or postmarked by the day prior to election day. Here you can check the rules of your state.

Once voters mail their envelope, they don’t have much control over when it arrives. This election season, up to 80 million ballots are expected through the postal system. Instead of relying on your ballot to arrive at its destination on time, send it out with more slack than you think is necessary. The USPS recommends mailing your ballot at least a week before your state’s deadline. However, the sooner you can send it, the better.

4. Can I get a replacement for my lost / damaged ballot paper?

Accidents happen. If you tear up your ballot, spill coffee on it, lose it, or don’t receive it in the first place, you may be able to request a new one. In some countries, you can request a replacement ballot online. Elsewhere, you may need to personally visit your local early stage web site to receive yours. Visit the website of your local electoral committee to find out which protocol applies to your region.

5. What should I do if I get someone else’s postal vote?

If you receive a voting slip by email addressed to someone else, do not try to track them down yourself. The best thing to do is to send the voting slip back to the polling office from which it came by post or personally. This way your local electoral authority will know that the voter never received their ballot and that you are still waiting for yours.

6. What mistakes should I avoid when I fill out my voting slip?

Filling in a bubble next to your preferred candidate may sound easy, but it’s a step that many people get confused about. Using anything other than black or blue ink, not filling in the oval completely, and / or leaving stray marks on the paper are simple mistakes that can invalidate your vote.

7. Where do I sign my postal voting slip?

After filling out your voting slip, make sure to sign it. In each state, voters who mail their ballot papers must sign an affidavit on the outside of the envelope. And this is not the time to scribble your name without paying attention: if your signature does not match your state’s, your vote may be discarded – so keep it neat!

8. Do I have to send anything else with my voting slip?

This year, 13 states require that all or some voters attach a photocopy of their ID with their postal ballot papers, and six states require a witness signature. Regardless of where you are registered, carefully read the instructions on your ballot paper before completing it and contact your local electoral office if you have any questions.

9. Why did my voting slip come with two envelopes?

Pennsylvania voters will face an additional hurdle when sending their ballots. Your votes must be correctly sealed in the two envelopes provided: first in the inner “Confidentiality” envelope and then in the outer envelope. Ballot papers that are not received in the secret envelope are considered “naked” and are therefore invalid.

10. Do I need postage for my postal vote?

Twenty states include prepaid postage with their postal ballot papers for the 2020 elections. The other 30 states technically require you to provide your own postage. However, if you don’t have a postage stamp, this shouldn’t stop you from mailing your ballot. The USPS is required to deliver postal ballot papers – even if they lack the correct postage. If a ballot envelope contains insufficient or no postage stamps, the USPS will collect postage from the relevant electoral authority.

11. How do I send my voting slip?

You can put your sealed and signed voting slip in a mailbox just like you would with a normal piece of mail. Many states are also installing secure drop-off boxes specifically for postal ballot papers ahead of the November elections. Visit your state’s election committee website to see if there is a ballot box in your neighborhood.

12. Can I hand in my voting slip in person?

If you think you missed your local mail-in voting deadline, or just want to make sure it gets to the right place, the option is to put your ballot in person. Almost every state allows voters to hand their completed ballot papers to their local polling station. You can find your local electoral office by searching your state’s electoral authority or the Foreign Minister’s website. If you won’t be near your local polling station anytime soon, you can cast your ballot anywhere in the country for personal voting if you are registered in one of the following locations: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana , New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Washington, DC

13. Can I vote personally?

In the United States, a personal vote will continue on November 3rd. Many states also offer early voting in October. (Look for your state’s early voting dates on this list.) If you’ve already submitted or cast your ballot, you will not be able to cast your vote in person. If you requested a postal vote but then decided to vote in person, you may be able to change your voting schedule at the last minute. In most cases, you can take your blank postal ballot with you to your polling station on election day and exchange it for a personal ballot. You may also be able to cast a preliminary voting slip (which will be counted after checking your voter status) if you forget your postal ballot at home. Check your state or local election office for the specific rules for your area.

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