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How to vote by mail in your state in the November presidential election

New York election New York election
Tens of millions of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail in the 2020 election, a major departure form previous years
AP Photo/John Minchillo
  • Several states have expanded vote by mail in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Washington Post finding that 180 million voters will either have ballots sent to them or can vote by mail without an excuse.
  • While mail voting is a convenient way to cast a ballot for those concerned about COVID-19, it is unfamiliar to many voters, and ballots cast by mail are more likely to be rejected than those cast in person.
  • In order to successfully vote by mail, experts recommend requesting your mail ballot as soon as possible, carefully following the instructions to make sure it gets counted, and sending it back well in advance. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

2020欧洲杯小组赛Many states have expanded voting by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a will be able to easily cast a mail ballot this November. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛While different states use varying definitions of absentee versus mail ballots, they functionally work the same way: a voter receives a ballot from their local elections office and returns it via the postal service, in person, or to a ballot dropbox. 

If you live in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, or the District of Columbia, 2020欧洲杯小组赛you'll most likely have a mail-in ballot automatically sent to you and don't need to take further action to request one. (California is only sending ballots ). 

If you live and are registered to vote in Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, or Wisconsin, 2020欧洲杯小组赛you'll automatically receive a mail-in ballot application that you can fill out and send back.  And are allowing all or most voters to cast a mail-in ballot without a documented excuse beyond the fear of contracting COVID-19. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛While mail voting , as President Donald Trump , it is subject to more complications and user error than voting in person. 

With many states starting to send out their November mail-in ballots , the election is much closer than you think.

Maryland voting .JPG
A Washington Post analysis found that nearly 180 million voters live in states that are mailing ballots to voters or allowing them to vote by mail without an excuse beyond COVID-19 fears

Get familiar with process and requirements in your state: 

2020欧洲杯小组赛While most states are now letting all voters vote by mail for any reason, others only allow elderly voters  and some are still set to require all voters to meet one of the state's listed conditions to receive a mail ballot.

2020欧洲杯小组赛Some states that don't require an excuse to vote by mail , including requiring voters to submit a copy of a photo ID, obtain witness signatures, or

Ballotpedia enacted during the pandemic, but when in doubt, to be sure of the rules. 

Fewer than half of US states are set to where voters can request their absentee ballots for November. In the remaining states, you must send in a signed paper form to your election office, which you can find either on your state or county election office's website or from third-party nonprofits including and

Request your ballot as soon as possible:

Experts say that while it may seem early to even start thinking about the fall, you should request and send in your ballot as soon as possible to reduce the strain on your local election officials.

As  in recent months, officials in some places with previously low levels of absentee voting have struggled to meet the soaring demand in a short time frame.

In addition to the states sending voters a mail-in ballot or mail ballot request form, request your November ballot in 38 states and should do so as soon as you can if you plan to vote by mail.

Some experts have applied the now-ubiquitous idea of flattening the curve of the rate of COVID-19 infections to flattening the curve to avoid election offices being so overwhelmed with a last-minute influx of requests that they're unable to get ballots out to voters in time. 


FILE - In this July 7, 2020, file photo a woman wearing gloves drops off a mail-in ballot at a drop box in Hackensack, N.J. The November election is coming with a big price tag as America faces the coronavirus pandemic. The demand for mail-in ballots is surging, election workers are in need of training and polling booths might have to be outfitted with protective shields. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Every year, tens of thousands of ballots are rejected for arriving too late or being incorrectly filled out. You can avoid that scenario by requesting your ballot early and carefully following directions.
Associated Press

Carefully follow the instructions:

When you do get your ballot, make sure to closely read the instructions2020欧洲杯小组赛 before filling it out and sending it in. States use a number of security protocols , including requiring signatures on the inner and/or outer envelopes and matching a voter's signature with a signature on file. 

Every year,  for being incorrectly completed, not being placed in an inner privacy envelope, being improperly sealed, or missing the required signatures on the inner and/or outer envelopes. 

While some states , not all do. Nearly one in five voters who cast mail ballots had their ballots tossed out often with no notification that their ballot wasn't counted. 

FILE PHOTO: A United States Postal Service (USPS) worker works in the rain in Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
The United States Postal Service is under immense strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, making it essential for voters to mail in their ballots well in advance of election day.

Send your ballot back through the US Postal Service at least seven days in advance: 

The US Postal Service, which processes millions of mail ballots a year, caused by the pandemic and as voters and election officials voters alike contend with the massive demand for mail voting.

While many Americans are used to relatively fast mail delivery, that may not be the case for all election mail this year.

2020欧洲杯小组赛 found that at least 65,000 ballots have been rejected for arriving past the state's arrival deadline this year alone. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that the agency's new postmaster general instructing mail carriers to prioritize delivery of commercial packages over regular mail and has restricted overtime, policy changes that could severely impede timely delivery of first-class mail, including ballots. 

Even though nearly half of states , USPS recommends that voters for their ballot to arrive at their home and make it back to the elections office  

If you're nervous about sending your ballot through the Postal Service, you'll have the option in most states to drop off your ballot in-person at your local elections office (different offices may modify their in-person pick-up and drop-off policies in response to COVID-19), and in some states,

Other helpful resources to help you request a ballot and learn more about the rules in your state: 

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