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US elections 2020: how to vote by mail

Feeling daunted about how to go about casting your mail-in ballot? We've broken down the process into four easy steps.

Stickers that read "I Voted By Mail" sit on a table waiting to be stuffed into envelopes by absentee ballot election workers  at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2020. - The US election is officia

The coronavirus pandemic is set to prompt the largest demand for mail-in voting in the history of the US presidential elections, in which President Donald Trump faces Democratic candidate and former Vice-President, Joe Biden, in November’s ballot.

Trump has consistently slammed mail-in voting as extremely susceptible to voter fraud, despite many studies concluding that the process is generally safe. But regardless of the president’s attempt to quash mail-in ballots, many states have already moved forward with plans to make it easier for citizens to cast their absentee vote.

Each state generally has different rules on mail-in voting and many are still in the process of deciding how they will handle voting during the pandemic. But what seems certain is that almost all, if not all, states will extend the eligibility for mail-ballots as a result of the pandemic.

Some states require an excuse for voting by mail. But due to the coronavirus, some states are giving all voters an excuse to vote by mail. Because of the coronavirus, your state may automatically send you an absentee ballot or a form to fill out to request one.

As this will be the first time that millions of Americans cast their vote by mail, many are feeling somewhat daunted about how to go about it. Below we break down the process into four easy steps.

US elections: How to vote by mail in four steps

Step One: register to vote

Whether you are planning to vote by mail or in person, the first thing you must do of course is register to vote, if you have not already done so. The website allows you to register to vote, as well as check your registration status if you are unsure of it.

The deadline to register in all states is 19 October, with the exception of Massachusetts, who has set its deadline as 24 October.

Step Two: Request your absentee ballot

You must request your absentee ballot from your state or territory.  You can find your state's local elections website here. by choosing your state from the dropdown menu. Alternatively, can also help you with the process of requesting an absentee ballot, through the “Vote by Mail” option on their website.

All the states have different deadlines regarding absentee voting requests and your state's absentee voting page should give information on relevant deadlines. But, of course, with the huge demand for mail-in voting, it’s best to start the process now or as soon as possible.

Step three: fill out your absentee ballot

Voters commonly make to make two major mistakes that can lead to their ballot not being counted: filling out the ballot incorrectly, or signing it incorrectly. Taking the extra minute to read the instructions can help to ensure you do not slip up with the former, for example putting a check in a section that requires you to fill in an oval.

Regarding signatures: be sure to put your official signature on the outer envelope and not just the ballot itself.

Step Four: return your ballot

Once your ballot has been filled out and signed correctly, you’ll be ready to return it to be counted for the election. Again, states timelines can vary regarding absentee voting, so you can find a breakdown here of each state's important dates.

To post your ballot, you can head to your local post office or drop it off at your local election official’s office. With the anticipation of post offices of being overwhelmed with ballots come October, many jurisdictions are also allowing voters to use drop-off locations, either in designated drop boxes or at a precinct or polling place.


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