Have questions about voting by mail?
We’ve got you covered!
What is voting by mail?
Vote by mail is often referred to as “absentee voting,” and though in some states there are differences, the process is generally the same. When you vote by mail, you receive your ballot in the mail, you fill it out at home (or wherever is convenient!), and then you return it, either by mailing it or by hand-delivering it to an elections office or a designated, secure drop box. Voting by mail keeps lines short at the polls for people that need to vote in person. Request your ballot today and keep reading for a step-by-step guide to ensure you are #MailReady.
Are you eligible to vote by mail?
Each state determines their vote by mail laws and requirements. Broadly, states’ vote by mail eligibility will fall into one of three categories: excuse required, no excuse required, or universal (where everyone automatically receives a mail ballot). Voting laws are constantly being updated, so make sure you have the most up-to-date information, and learn about the absentee ballot rules in your state.
- Excuse: Voters in these states will need to provide a valid excuse for not voting on Election Day in order to vote by mail.
- No excuse: Any voter in these states can vote by mail if they choose to, even if they are able to vote in person on Election Day.
- Universal: Voters in these states only need to request a mail ballot if they need their ballot mailed to a different address than where they’re registered to vote; otherwise they’ll get one automatically.
If you are ineligible to vote by mail this year, make a plan to vote in person.
1. Requesting your ballot
When should I request my ballot? (Hint: the answer is NOW!)
You can request your ballot now in every state in the U.S. Your ballot may not be delivered right away, as each state has its own timeline for sending out ballots. Find out when you will receive your mail-in ballot.
If you are a registered voter in New Jersey, California, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Hawaii or Washington, you will automatically receive a ballot at the mailing address listed on your voter registration. Make sure that your mailing address is up to date by checking your voter registration status.
Where should I get my ballot delivered?
If you are requesting your ballot, make sure you are having it delivered to an address that you will definitely be able to access before the election. The USPS cannot forward absentee ballots. If you aren’t sure where you will be when your ballot is delivered, have it sent to a family member or a friend who can send it to you wherever you are.
How do I keep track of my ballot?
Many states have trackers that can let you know the status of your ballot! Track your ballot here.
Your mail ballot may not be delivered right away, as each state has its own timeline for sending out ballots.
2. Filling out your ballot
Where can I find the instructions?
Take the extra minute to read the instructions so that your ballot gets counted. Be sure to follow the instructions about how to indicate your choice of candidates and what color ink to use. The instructions for filling out your ballot can be located both on the outer envelope or actually on the ballot.
- An inner envelope is provided. If the instructions tell you to seal it, do not forget. Do not use your own envelope to return a ballot.
- Make sure you fill in the entire bubble on your ballot – don’t check, or x the bubble.
- Stick to blue or black pen ink.
- Do not stain or tear your ballot or the envelope. Outside the areas you were told to mark or sign, there should be no stray writing or marks.
What should my signature look like?
Your signature is critical to having your vote counted! Don’t use your “grocery store signature.” Use your official signature to make sure that ballot ends up getting counted. Election officials may be comparing your ballot against an old signature on file, such as the one on your driver’s license. If you sign with your initials but your signature on file contains your full name, your ballot might not be counted.
Do I need to get my ballot notarized?
If the instructions on your ballot require a witness signature or a notary’s signature, don’t send it back without it! Find a public notary here.
Do I need an ID?
Some states require that you submit a copy of your ID along with your ballot to vote by mail or absentee ballot. Your ballot will indicate whether this is required.
If you do not have access to a scanner or printer, VoteRiders can help you!
3. Returning your ballot
How should I return my ballot?
If you’re able to, drop your ballot off!
- Depending on the rules in your state, you may be able to drop your ballot off at a physical location. . Depending on the state you are voting in, you can return your ballot at your polling place, your local election office, or a designated ballot drop box.
- Different states have different deadlines for returning your ballot in person, but you’re usually able to drop off your ballot before Election Day. Additionally, there may be lines at drop boxes on Election Day, so return your ballot early if you can! Not all ballot return location data will be available yet, some election offices decide really late. Find your ballot drop off location.
Otherwise, send it in the mail!
- Put your ballot in the mail as soon as you can, but definitely at least seven days before the deadline.
- USPS will be handling millions of more ballots than they have in past election cycles.
- While deadlines change from state to state, it’s a good rule of thumb to mail your ballots no later than October 20th.
- Find out the deadline to return your ballot here.
Do I need to buy stamps?
How do I address the envelope?
Typically, ballot return envelopes come pre-addressed. If yours doesn’t, here is a quick overview of how to address an envelope. It’s okay if your return address is different from the address where you registered to vote. Just make sure you will be able to access mail from your return address!
4. Confirming your ballot
Can I track my ballot?
Just like you might be able to track your ballot en route to you, many states have trackers that can let you know the status of your ballot as it makes its way back to your local election office. If your state doesn’t have a tracker or if you notice that your ballot sees delayed, you can call your local election official.
Should I have a back up plan?
If you have issues voting by mail, you can probably still cast a ballot in person. If you receive your ballot but want to vote in person instead, bring your mail ballot with you to your polling place on Election Day. Call your local election office to confirm instructions for voting in person if you’ve already mailed your absentee ballot and don’t think it’ll arrive in time to count.
Ready to take the next step?
5 Days | 5 Actions
Ready to take the next step?
5 Days | 5 Actions