The coronavirus shouldn’t force people to choose between their health and right to vote. Vote by Mail gives us the option to cast a ballot safely and securely without leaving the house.
We have answers with these Vote by Mail FAQs.
Can I vote by mail in 2020?
While every state offers voters some form of vote by mail through absentee ballots, laws vary regarding how voters can qualify to receive their ballots. In 4 states, voters are required to have an excuse, such as being out of state or deployed overseas, to receive a mail-in ballot. Right now, 12 states are allowing the coronavirus pandemic to qualify as an excuse. Twenty-nine states allow any voter to request a mail ballot regardless of their reasoning. The 5 other states vote only by mail.
How can you vote by mail? Check your state’s status and request your ballot here.
Is it safe to Vote by Mail?
Vote by mail is safe and secure. Every state already uses some form of vote by mail with absentee ballots, and our active military members voting overseas use vote by mail almost exclusively. Studies show that vote by mail fraud is extremely rare, and in the few cases where it does happen, strong security measures are able to detect and remove fraudulent votes.
In fact, states with universal vote by mail tend to have more secure systems than those that don’t – vote by mail is the reason the Washington Post deemed Colorado the safest state to cast a ballot in. Here’s how secure vote by mail states like Colorado and Washington protect their voters and election systems:
- Every ballot is a paper-verified ballot, making all votes traceable.
- Only registered voters are mailed a ballot.
- Signatures are cross-referenced with voter registrations to ensure accuracy.
- Ballots with missing or invalid signatures are rejected, and the voter and/or law enforcement are notified.
- Officials regularly conduct risk-limiting audits to ensure integrity, security, and an accurate count.
How does the Vote by Mail system work?
It all depends on your state. Let’s break down how it works for each type of mail-voting system.
In states with universal vote by mail, all registered voters are automatically sent a ballot ahead of Election Day. Voters simply fill out, sign, and seal their ballots, before dropping them off at secure locations or returning them in the mail. In these states, ballots are tracked with a barcode, allowing the voter to verify that their ballot has reached the right place and that their vote has been counted.
In states with “no excuse” absentee voting, voters must contact their state in order to request a ballot. In many states, this can be done online. Find out how to request your mail ballot here.
There are still 4 states that won’t allow voters to request a mail ballot during the coronavirus crisis. These “excuse-required” states have yet to allow the pandemic as a qualifying reason to vote by mail, and voters will be forced to choose between their right to vote and their own health and safety. This is unacceptable – but we’ve already seen pressure campaigns successfully change these laws in other states in recent weeks.
Absentee ballots vs. Vote by Mail: What’s the difference?
The short answer? Not much.
Traditionally, “absentee voting” is the term used by states that mostly vote through in-person polling locations to describe voters who will be “absent” on Election Day and need to cast their vote through other means – i.e. through a mail-in ballot.
While all states allow some form of absentee voting, some states require voters to provide an excuse as to why they will be unable to use traditional polling places to receive a mail ballot, and only certain excuses qualify. Other states allow “no-excuse” vote by mail, meaning any voter for any reason can request a mail ballot instead of opting to use a public polling location. During the coronavirus pandemic, some “excuse-required” states have added fears of contracting Covid-19 as an acceptable reason to request a mail ballot.
Vote by mail, or vote at home, is a term often used to describe states that conduct their elections almost entirely by mail. These states automatically mail all registered voters a ballot before each election, which they can return through the mail or deposit at a secure drop-box or vote center, and also provide some in-person voting options for voters who prefer to go to a polling place. These states may also be said to have “Universal Vote by Mail”.
You can learn more about voting by mail on our blog here. Whatever you call it, absentee voting, voting by mail, or voting at home, they all describe registered voters receiving a ballot in the mail, rather than at a polling place, and you may therefore find them used interchangeably. But the devil is in the details, and each state has its own laws and practices regarding mail ballots, which is why it’s so important for all voters to find out how to vote safely in their state this election season.
Does vote by mail give one party more power than the other?
Vote by mail is a neutral system allowing voters of all political stripes to do their civic duty, and therefore does not favor any party or ideology over another. A recent Stanford University study found that vote by mail does not impact either party’s share of turnout or share of votes. Both Republicans and Democrats have won in states with primarily vote by mail systems, and several swing states offer vote by mail options.
Will this make elections more expensive?
On the contrary! While there are costs associated with transitioning a state to vote by mail, such as setting up up-to-date addresses, tracking systems, and verification methods, vote by Mail actually saves taxpayers money in the long run because states have to run and staff far fewer polling places, print fewer provisional ballots, and buy fewer voting machines. Colorado saw election costs go down 40% after switching to a vote by mail system.
What is the Federal Vote By Mail legislation?
Senators Ron Wyden and Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation in March that would ensure every American voter can request an absentee ballot when a public health emergency, such as COVID-19, would make voting in person unsafe.
In addition, the bill would ensure states provide access to early voting for voters who still prefer to cast their ballot in person, require each state to develop and publish plans that ensure Americans can vote safely in an emergency, and importantly, allocate the funding needed to make sure states have the resources to do so. While over the long term, voting by mail will often reduce election costs, the timely transition to Vote by Mail options requires extra resources in order to implement ballot tracking, secure drop-off locations, postage-paid envelopes, and ramped-up ballot counting. That will require more than the $400 million Congress has allocated to states so far, but it’s a price worth paying to ensure Americans have the right to participate in safe and secure elections.
These changes are critical for the millions of voters in the remaining states that won’t be able to safely cast ballots this election season. Whether you already have access to vote by mail options or you yourself would be unable to vote safely under the current circumstances, it’s important to support yourself and your fellow Americans by signing our petition to urge your Senator to pass the bill.
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