There is a lot of confusion about voting by mail.
As states across the country work to expand vote by mail so that everyone can vote safely, we are here to answer your questions. We’ve summarized much of what you should know below, but if you need the TL;DR, here it is: How safe is it? Very. Is fraud rampant? No. Does vote by mail help with voter turn out? It can.
Keep reading to learn more about vote by mail, then visit Voter Tools on our website to register to vote and request your ballot.
You might be able to vote in person on Election Day, even if you received a mail-in ballot. Every state has different rules, so check with your state or local election office for the specific procedures. Typically:
You’ll take your absentee ballot to your designated polling place on Election Day. Your polling place may change, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Check your polling place’s location before you go.
Depending on your state's rules, you might exchange your un-cast absentee ballot for an in-person ballot, or complete your absentee ballot and hand it in, or cast a provisional ballot.
If you forget to bring your absentee ballot with you, you may be able to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted once your election officials verify your voter status.
It is always good to check with your local election office prior to making your final decision.
Voting by mail is a convenient and accessible way to cast your vote from your home. To vote by mail, follow these simple steps:
2. Once you are registered, you can then request your absentee ballot for your state by filling out an application form. Find out how to get started on your Secretary of State’s website.
- It’s important to note that not all states participate in the vote by mail process.
- Thirty-four states, including Washington, D.C. allow “no excuse” absentee voting, which means anyone eligible to vote qualifies to apply and receive an absentee or mail-in ballot.
- Some states have been making exceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic — check your Secretary of State’s website to find out more.
- Some states may request you to provide a reason for why you are applying to vote by mail.
If you live in a state that has universal vote-by-mail and you are a registered voter, you may not need to request a ballot and will be automatically sent one. Check your Secretary of State’s website to find out.
3. Once your application is approved, your ballot will be mailed to you where you can fill it out from home. You can take your time with your ballot and research candidates, ballot questions, and issues before making your final decision. Once your ballot is completed, you must send it back immediately and before your state’s deadline.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states are expanding vote by mail so that everyone can vote safely. Make sure you are aware of your state’s rules and regulations in response to COVID-19 by checking your Secretary of State’s website and following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for big updates.
Yes. Voting by mail is a safe and secure system that provides voters more time and flexibility to cast their ballot in case they cannot make it to the polls on Election Day. There is no evidence of an increase in voter fraud with vote by mail. For example, in Oregon, over 100 million mail-in ballots have been cast since 2000. Of those, 0.000012% resulted in fraud (that’s about a dozen total cases in 20 years). In fact, the military has been using vote-by-mail since the Civil War. The current President and Vice President recently cast their votes by mail. (Source: Brennan Center for Justice)
Currently, 39 states and Washington, D.C., have the capability to track mail-in ballots, according to an interactive map published and updated by NBC News. These states are Alabama; Alaska; Arkansas; Arizona; California; Colorado; Delaware; Georgia; Florida; Idaho; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia and Wyoming.
There are many rumors that vote by mail will lead to voter fraud – that is not true!
In fact, it is more likely for an American to get struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “States have multiple tools to address valid security concerns and protect election integrity when it comes to mail ballots. And recent technologies and strategies have significantly enhanced the security of mail balloting.”
Source: Brennan Center for Justice
What to do if you are currently social distancing somewhere that you don't usually live or work.
You have to update your voter registration when you move to a new permanent residence or change your address. If you are temporarily in a different location because you’re a student away at college or are social distancing somewhere other than your permanent residence, request to vote absentee in the state where you are registered.
Contact your local Elections Office for more information.
The advantages of voting by mail include voting from the comfort of your own home, taking your time to fill out your ballot, and having the opportunity to practice social distancing during COVID-19. Voting by mail ensures the safety of voters, and also poll workers. During a global pandemic, such as COVID-19, many voters feel unsafe going to crowded polling places. Vote by mail allows us to make our voices heard without putting ourselves or our families, and others at unnecessary risk.
Absentee voting or voting by mail makes it easy for busy family caregivers and seniors who are hospitalized or have limited mobility to cast their votes in elections. All states allow some form of absentee voting to ensure that people who can’t (or don’t want to) go to their local polling place on Election Day have the opportunity to vote.
Unless your state or local election official provides a prepaid return envelope with your ballot, Americans have to ensure that the appropriate postage is paid. However, there are 17 states that have statutes requiring local election officials to provide return postage for mail-in ballots. Find out if your state provides prepaid postage for mail-in ballots on your Secretary of State’s website.
If you need to purchase stamps, you can pick them up at your local post office or buy them online. Also, many grocery stores and pharmacies also sell them at the cash register in most cases, it is up to the voter to pay for postage to return a mail ballot envelope to the election official.
Deadlines for each state is varied. However, a good rule of thumb is to mail your ballot in as soon as possible. You don’t want to worry about postal delays and your ballot not being received on time if you wait and mail it close to the deadline. In some states, you can also drop-off your ballot at secure locations, polling sites, or election official offices.
Find out more about your state's deadlines by visiting your Local Elections Office.
If you have not received your absentee or vote by mail ballot, you should contact your local election’s office. They can help you figure out your best options to make sure your vote gets cast.
Muslim Caucus has put together some Voting Tools to help you out. Click here to find your Local Election's Office.
Some stated require you to complete an application and request for a mail-in ballot. Some states allow you to request it online while others require you to fill out an application form by hand and mail, fax, or deliver the form in person to your local election’s office.
Click here to see your state's policy and requirements to receive a mail-in-ballot.
We have partnered with the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition who works year-round to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to vote and have that vote count. The Election Protection coalition is made up of more than 100 local, state, and national partners, utilizing a wide range of tools and activities to protect, advance, and defend the right to vote.
Election Protection provides Americans across the country with comprehensive information and assistance at all stages of voting – from registration to absentee and early voting, to casting a vote at the polls, to overcoming obstacles to their participation. Election Protection helps voters make sure their vote is counted through a number of resources, including:
- A suite of voter helplines administered by coalition members:
- Digital outreach tools: including 866ourvote.org, @866ourVote, and facebook.com/866OurVote