Voting by mail is a relatively new and controversial practice that few states had streamlined prior to this election. But if you’re a resident of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Arizona or California, you may be confused as to what all the buzz is about; after all, voting by mail is by far the most common voting method in these states.
The majority of states are, in fact, allowing mail-in ballots in 2020. The New York Times estimates that at least 75% of American voters will have this option and that 80 million will use it — more than doubling the number of mail-in ballots in 2016.
Can I Vote by Mail If I’m Nervous About COVID-19?
The coronavirus has changed the way Americans do many things — including voting. And this year, most states are allowing residents to request an absentee ballot; either due to COVID-19 concerns or for an unspecified reason.
Some exceptions are the states that are sending ballots to every registered voter, regardless of whether they request one or not. These include Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
There are also states that are requiring a reason beyond COVID-19 to request a mail-in ballot, such as being elderly or otherwise immobile. These states include Texas, New York, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina.
Can I Send My Ballot Through FedEx?
The United States Postal Service has been suffering through a funding crisis that’s only made worse by the pandemic. And with no help from the federal government, widespread mail delays have affected Americans everywhere. Understandably, this is a cause for concern when it comes to voting by mail.
Unfortunately, this does not mean you can send your ballot through FedEx or UPS. Both private mailing companies have issued warnings against this, with UPS stating, “State ballots must be postmarked to be considered valid and only the USPS has lawful postmarking status. Therefore UPS, FedEx and other private parties cannot technically be involved in shipping ballots,” reported Reuters.
When Is My Ballot Due?
Although the technical deadline for any ballot is Election Day — Nov. 3 — this means something different for every state. For example, California will accept ballots up to 17 days after Nov. 3 as long as they were postmarked by that date. Meanwhile, Colorado has a hard limit and will not count ballots received after 7 p.m. on Election Day.
To check your state’s deadline, visit Vote.org. But to really be safe, you’ll want to send out your ballot as soon as possible.
Can I Still Register To Vote by Mail?
Whether or not you can still register to vote by mail is completely up to the rules of your state. Some have deadlines that passed in early October. And most recommend putting in your ballot request at least 15 days before Election Day — a deadline that has already passed.
If your state will count ballots after Election Day that were postmarked by Nov. 3, you may still have time to request a ballot. However, if your state has a strict turn-in deadline of Nov. 3, then you’re running the risk of missing the time frame to vote.
Either way, if you don’t want to vote in person, go ahead and fill out a ballot request so you can hopefully squeeze your vote in on time. You can register to vote and request an absentee ballot — which are separate processes — through Vote.org.
What Is the Risk of Voter Fraud?
Voting by mail has become controversial in recent years, mostly due to claims made by President Donald Trump and others in the Republican party about the high risk of voter fraud. However, these claims have been proven false through multiple independent studies and even government investigations.
There’s also no proof that mail-in ballots tip the scales unfairly toward one party or another. In 2016, Trump won 9 of the 16 states where more than 50% of voters voted by mail.
All this to say, aside from potential mailing delays, you shouldn’t be worried about the voting-by-mail process skewing election results come early November.
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