Mail-In Voting: 5 Things To Know About Voting Safely In 2020 Presidential Election

Unlike what you may have heard from President Trump, voting by mail is an effective, and completely safe way to cast your ballot in the November 2020 general election. Here's what you need to know about mail-in voting.

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Whether you’re worried about the risk of COVID-19 that comes with visiting a crowded polling station, or are physically unable to make the trip, voting by mail is a safe option. Unfortunately, some politicians like President Donald Trump have promoted a dangerous lie, that supposedly rampant mail-in voting fraud will affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Here’s everything you need to know about mail-in voting, and how you can do it before election day, November 3:

1. How do you vote by mail? It’s easier than you may think. First things first — make sure that you’re registered to vote, and in the correct location. Michelle Obama‘s When We All Vote organization has a great tool for obtaining that information. Then, you must request an absentee voting ballot — you can fill out the application HERE. When your ballot arrives in the mail, it should look like the one you would receive at a polling station. Make sure the information is correct, including your name and party affiliation. The ballot packet will have information for safely casting your vote, but it should be easy as dropping it in the mailbox. Scroll down for important deadlines to keep in mind.

2. Which states allow voting by mail? Voting by mail is legal in all 50 states. In fact, there are five states that vote entirely by mail: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii. For the first time, California, Vermont, and DC also will provide mail-in ballots automatically this year. But there are restrictions in some places. Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas all require voters to have a valid excuse for mail voting, like being elderly or ill. And no, they’re not accepting avoiding coronavirus as an excuse.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden is the 2020 Democratic nominee for president (AP)

3. What’s the difference between mail-in voting and absentee ballots? The short answer is… there isn’t one, technically. But the terms “mail-in” and “absentee,” while often used interchangeably, do have slightly different meanings. Absentee ballots are cast by, well, absentees — people who cannot make it to the polls on election day. That includes people who are out of the state or country on election day, military members, and those in jail for non-felony offenses.

Mail-in ballots are cast in states with all-mail voting. Voters are automatically sent a ballot, fill it out, and send it back in — no polling stations necessary. But mail-in ballots are referred to differently state by state, including “absentee ballots.” When the president says that mail-in ballots are dangerous, but that absentee voting is safe, he’s not making sense. It’s the same process!

4. What’s the deadline for requesting a mail ballot? That varies from state to state, but you can check HERE for the specific dates by location. In New York, for example, an absentee ballot application MUST be postmarked seven days before election day. The ballot must be postmarked on election day (November 3) and received within seven days after election day.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is the 2020 Republican nominee for president (AP)

5. Do mail-in ballots actually increase electoral fraud? Remember when Trump tweeted this? And then got flagged by Twitter for promoting falsehoods about the 2020 election: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

He’s wrong. One hundred percent. Full stop. There is no evidence that voting by mail increases voter fraud, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. There are widespread protections in place to ensure that doesn’t happen, like mailing ballots to the address listed on voter registration rolls, requiring signatures on envelopes, and ensuring that those requesting mail-in ballots are registered voters. Stealing specific ballots from mailboxes, as Trump has alleged, is nearly impossible, as there’s no set time or date they’ll arrive.

Whether you’re voting by mail or visiting a polling place on November 3, you need to VOTE. If you haven’t registered to vote yet, you can do so by filling out the form below:

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