Voting by mail? What you need to do to make sure your vote gets counted

October 19, 2020

Many Americans are expected to cast their votes by mail instead of in person in this year's election due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While voters always have the option to vote in person on Election Day, many are choosing to cast their ballots from home this year in an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel virus.

But while voters have to plan ahead to make sure that they’re taking the right steps to ensure their vote gets counted, the process can be confusing and daunting.

Here are some answers to common questions about voting by mail in the United States in the 2020 election.

Do I need to sign up to receive my ballot by mail?

It depends on your state. “All-mail” elections mean that every registered voter automatically gets a ballot sent to their registered address that they can either mail back or return in person, but not all states offer it.

According to CNN, the following states will conduct the 2020 election primarily by vote-by-mail:

Washington, D.C.

The rest of the states in the country allow you to vote by mail, but you need to sign up via your local board of elections and, depending on where you live, may need to provide an excuse as to why you can’t vote in person.

My state requires an excuse to get an absentee ballot. Will they allow me to vote by mail if I'm concerned about voting in person due to COVID-19?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more states than ever are allowing their residents to vote by mail without an excuse. However, the following states require voters to provide an excuse in order to request a mail-in ballot:

New York
South Carolina

Common excuses include things like being a member of the armed forces who is deployed outside of their home state, college students who go to school in another state, or poll workers who are assigned to another polling place outside of their regular polling place, though they vary from state to state. Kentucky, New York, and South Carolina will accept fear of the coronavirus as a valid excuse, reports The Washington Post.

When do I need to send in my ballot?

The sooner, the better, say experts. In 2018, only 25% of voters used mailed ballots, and most of them resided in a handful of states that were prepared to handle an influx of mailed ballots. For the majority of the country, less than 10% of voters cast their ballot by mail in their home state.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, local election officials have had to change their processes, training additional staff and in some cases needing to purchase additional materials to sort and tabulate ballots.

The USPS recommends that voters mail in their ballot at least one week before their state’s deadline to receive them, reports Time.

Will my vote get counted if I mail in my ballot on Election Day?

For most states, your ballot will get counted as long as it is received on or before November 3. This means that if you drop it in the mailbox on November 3, it may not get counted, so the sooner you can get it in the mail, the better.

However, each state has different criteria, so confirm with your board of elections to make sure that your vote gets counted.

Can I submit my mail-in ballot in person?

Yes. Mailing in your ballot is just one way of turning it in, but you also have the option of delivering it in person or dropping it off at a designated ballot drop-box. Check with your local board of elections for the specific rules that apply to your state, as some require you to drop it off prior to Election Day in order for your vote to count.

Looking for more info on the 2020 election?

Visit Vote: Make It Count at RADIO.COM/vote for updates, resources and other important information about how to vote and the election process.

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