With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic nowhere in sight and the 2020 presidential election just around the corner, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding mail-in voting. Ultimately, citizens want to do it and Trump wants to stop it.
To briefly summarize the issue, Donald Trump and his newly appointed postmaster general Louis DeJoy are denying the United States Postal Service’s (USPS’s) request for 89 billion dollars worth of funding. Because of this lack of funding, the USPS has sent letters to the secretaries of 46 out of 50 states* saying they cannot support the influx of mail-in ballots this fall and therefore cannot guarantee ballots will be delivered by their required delivery date. This means millions of votes are at risk of being disqualified. For further reading on this specific issue, check out the articles linked here, here, and here.
Needless to say, voting by mail is a lot more complicated than it was before. And please trust me when I say that, even before the added caveat of the Republican attack on our postal service, voting by mail was never easy. I personally, as a college-educated, upper-middle-class individual with easy access to the internet, have messed up my mail-in ballot twice. This election, we do not have the wiggle room for anyone to make the mistakes I did—so what follows will be a very detailed explanation of how to vote by mail.
Let me start by saying if there is any way for you to vote in person, please do. If you have to re-register to make this happen, I urge you to do it. I have re-registered and I have tried to vote by mail, and the former was much easier and more successful than the later. (For those looking to re-register, click here and do it ASAP.) Additionally, if you’re voting in person, vote as soon as possible. The early voting window opens Tuesday, October 13th. In this day and age you never know when you’ll have to self-isolate for 14 days, so vote while you can!
Now, if voting by mail is absolutely the only option for you, I want to break down the steps one by one.
- Confirm your voter registration status by clicking here. If your status is “In Suspense,” you may need to update a piece of information.
- See if you’re eligible to vote by mail. These requirements vary state by state, and this website breaks it down nicely.
- Go to vote.org and submit their absentee ballot request form right now. What they will send you isn’t an absentee ballot but instead the official absentee ballot request form. Do this step today. With the current USPS situation, the official request form alone can take up to two weeks to get to you. This isn’t even your ballot.
If you want to further eliminate the risk that comes with mailing, you can also print out the official absentee ballot request form instead of going through vote.org. Just Google “PDF ‘your county here’ absentee ballot request form.” The form should look something like this.
- Fill out the official absentee ballot request form with black or blue ink. The form is fairly self-explanatory and all information can be found with a simple Google search.
- Either mail this form or go submit it in person to your county’s voting clerk before the early voting window. This window begins Tuesday, October 13th, but the sooner your request form is turned in, the better. Taking these steps early ensures that not only your vote counts but helps avoid system backlog.
- Wait to receive your ballot. Don’t forget to check your mail!
- The day your ballot is received, you’ll need to fill it out according to its instructions. Fill in all bubbles completely and darkly, like a standardized test. Neatly sign the outer envelope that you’re putting the ballot in and seal everything securely.
- As soon as possible—do not wait—mail or better yet, hand-deliver your ballot to your county’s elections office. (All states allow this.) This isn’t the same as a polling place, and a Google search will likely be necessary to find the address of this office. If you live in a state that is providing ballot drop-off boxes for mail-in voters, this is another option for you.
- Celebrate! And also cross your fingers that your vote gets safely counted. I’m sure I’m not alone in my anxiety toward the proper counting of all votes in this election.
If these steps didn’t make it apparent, voting by mail is a risky, overly complicated, and time-consuming process. If it is the only option for you, start the process today—it’s never too soon. Don’t wait for deadlines or plan to do things exactly two weeks early. There will likely be bumps in the road, and you’re going to want a lot of time to accommodate for them.
While participating in democracy shouldn’t be this grossly difficult, it unfortunately is and we all need to do our part by not only voting ourselves, but helping each other vote. Share infographics on Instagram, help friends re-register, check on family members to make sure they plan on voting, volunteer at a polling location, vote early, and post a picture with your sticker to remind others to do the same. Above all else, don’t let your vote or anyone else’s go to waste.
*Links to the USPS letters are here, here, here, here, and here.
By Jill Risberg
Illustration by Grace Smith