How to Vote by Mail

During the pandemic, states across the country expanded vote by mail, we are here to answer your questions. We’ve summarized what you should know below, but if you need the short version here it is: How safe is it? Very. Is fraud rampant? No. Does vote by mail help with voter turn out? It can.

Keep reading to learn more about vote by mail, then visit our new Voter Resources Hub to register to vote and request your ballot.

Voting by mail allows you to vote safely from home instead of going to a polling place. Your local election official’s office will send you a mail-in ballot, also known as absentee ballots. When you receive your mail-in ballot, it will also include directions and an envelope to return your ballot. It is important to follow the directions to correctly fill out your ballot and sign it so your vote is counted.

Depending on your state’s rules, you may need to request your ballot or a ballot may be automatically sent to you.

Voting by mail is a convenient and accessible way to cast your vote from your home. To vote by mail, follow these simple steps:

  1. First, make sure you’re registered to vote and check to make sure your voter registration is updated. You can register and update your voter registration at whenweallvote.org/register.

     

  2. Once you register, you can request your mail-in ballot for your state by filling out an application form. Find out how to get started on your Secretary of State’s website.It’s important to note that, depending on your state, you may have to provide an excuse for why you are applying to vote by mail. Thirty-four states including Washington, D.C. allow “no excuse” absentee voting, which means anyone eligible to vote qualifies to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot. Some states made exceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic — check your Secretary of State’s website to find out more.

    If you live in a state that has universal vote-by-mail and you are a registered voter, you may not need to request a ballot and one will be automatically sent to you. Check your Secretary of State’s website to find out.

     

  3. Once your application is approved, you will receive your ballot in the mail. You can take your time with your ballot and research candidates, ballot questions, and issues before making your decision. Once your ballot is complete, you must send it back before your state’s deadline.

    Make sure you are aware of your state’s rules and regulations in response to COVID-19 by checking your Secretary of State’s website and following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for big updates.

Yes. Voting by mail is a secure system that provides you with more time and flexibility to cast your ballot in case you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. There is absolutely  no evidence of an increase in “voter fraud” with vote by mail. For example, in Oregon, over 100 million mail-in ballots have been cast since 2000. Of those, 0.000012% resulted in fraud (that’s about a dozen total cases in 20 years).

In fact, the military has been using vote by mail since the Civil War.

Many states allow you to track your ballot so you can make sure it arrives on time. 

Source: Brennan Center for Justice

There are many rumors and false reports that vote by mail will lead to voter fraud – that is not true. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “States have multiple tools to address valid security concerns and protect election integrity when it comes to mail ballots. And recent technologies and strategies have significantly enhanced the security of mail balloting.”


Source: Brennan Center for Justice

The advantages to voting by mail include voting from the comfort of your own home, taking your time to fill out your ballot, and having the opportunity to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Voting by mail ensures the safety of voters, and also poll workers. During a global pandemic, many voters feel unsafe going to crowded polling places. Vote by mail allows us to make our voices heard without putting ourselves or our families at unnecessary risk.

Some states will provide envelopes with pre-paid postage while others require you to purchase stamps. You can learn more information on your Secretary of State’s website. If you need to purchase stamps, you can pick them up at your local post office or buy them online. Also, many grocery stores and pharmacies sell them at the cash register.

Each state is different when it comes to vote by mail deadlines. Mail your ballot in as soon as possible so you don’t have to worry about postal delays and your ballot not being received on time if you mail it close to the deadline. In some states, you can also drop-off your ballot at secure locations, polling sites, or election official offices.

If you have not received your mail-in ballot after submitting your application, you should contact your local election office. They can help you figure out your best options to make sure your vote gets cast.

If your state requires an application for a mail-in ballot, you may be able to apply online. Some states allow you to request it online while others require you to fill out an application form by hand and mail, fax, or deliver the form in person to your local election office.

When We All Vote partners with the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition year-round to ensure all voters have an equal opportunity to vote and have that vote count. Made up of more than 100 local, state, and national partners, Election Protection uses a wide range of tools and activities to protect, advance, and defend the right to vote.

Election Protection provides Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive information and assistance at all stages of voting – from registration, to vote-by-mail
and early voting, to casting a vote at the polls, to overcoming obstacles to their participation. Election Protection helps voters make sure their vote is counted through a number of resources, including:

  • A suite of voter helplines administered by coalition members:
    • English: 866-OUR-VOTE – Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
    • Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA – NALEO Educational Fund
    • Arabic/English: 844-YALLA-US – Arab American Institute (AAI)
    • Asian Languages/English: 888-API-VOTE – APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
  • Digital outreach tools: including 866ourvote.org, @866ourVote, and facebook.com/866OurVote
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