How to Vote by Mail During the 2020 Election

Let’s face it: We have reached one of the most frustrating voting seasons ever. Between the risks to in-person elections from the coronavirus pandemic and the preposterous efforts by President Donald Trump to discredit the election itself, it is fair to be perplexed about what will happen on November 3, precisely.

While the events of this year are clearly remarkable, much of the electoral structure remains the same, save for one detail: mail-in vote. Despite Louisiana, Florida, and other key states still affected by COVID-19, more electors could opt to exercise their right to vote by mail, rather than line up at their nearest polling place. Mail voting isn’t a perfect method, particularly with the USPS under pressure, but with some planning it might help to decide our political future for the next four years. Read on for answers to some of the most popular mail-voting questions in the 2020 election.

Do I register to vote the same way I would to vote in person?

Yes! Make sure to check your registration sooner rather than later, and if you’re not registered, go to the nonpartisan organization Vote.org to start the process.

How do I get a mail-in, or absentee, ballot?

It depends much upon the state in which you reside. Since of the COVID-19 pandemic certain states made it simpler than ever to get a mail-in vote, so check NASS.org to find the criteria for your zone. For example, if you pick “New York” from the drop-down menu on the website, you can find a PDF of the Absentee Ballot Application Form, along with information on deadlines: Absentee ballots can be submitted electronically or by mail until October 27, or they can be obtained by the local county board of elections until November 2. Take note, though, that the USPS has stated that it can not guarantee the distribution of submitted ballots for fewer than 15 days until an election: that is, the method of obtaining an absentee vote ASAP starts.

How do I cast a mail-in ballot?

After you have collected and filled out the mail-in ballot, you can either place it in the mail, make sure it gets a postmark no later than 3 November; carry it to the County Board of Elections Office no later than 3 November; take it to an early voting site between 24 October and 1 November; or take it to the polling site on 3 November. (Find your nearest voting place early or regular voting site at Vote.org)

Do I have to sign my mail-in ballot?

Yes. To guarantee that your vote is correctly counted, carefully read the notes on your ballot and don’t forget to sign and date the outside of the envelope on which you put your ballot.

Can I track my mail-in ballot after I mail it?

It depends on where you vote, but in certain states — including Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, and California — you will easily register the ballot online after you upload it, to be extra-sure that the vote will be counted.

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