In any other election year, mid-August would be devoted to dissecting who’s going to win the presidency and why. And we’re doing some of that, of course. But election experts I talk to say they are amazed to see that how we vote, rather than who we vote for, is the top story right now.
And it’s true. So many of you asked me questions about how to vote by mail, which a majority of the country can do in November. It reflects the concern Americans have about a process that is new for most the country.
So we’ve put together this guide on how to make sure your vote is counted in November, step by step. Like:
- Make sure you’re registered to vote, and be mindful of state deadlines about how late you can do this.
- Request an application for an absentee ballot. Just like if you knew you were going to be out of town on Election Day, if you think you don’t want to vote in person because of the pandemic, in most states you need to proactively request a ballot from your local election office. (Find that office here.)
- Fill out your ballot as soon as you get it, and follow all the instructions. Most states won’t accept ballots that arrive after Election Day, even if it’s a beleaguered Postal Service that caused your ballot to be late. And some states give little to no time to correct mistakes on how you filled out your ballot. Arizona even throws out ballots that arrive with no signature on the envelope.
- Return your ballot ASAP. The Postal Service is the most obvious way, and they’re saying if you give it at least a week, it should arrive on time. Some states also have secure boxes where you can drop off your ballot for an election official to collect. You could even drive your ballot to your local election office. For now, private carriers such as FedEx and Amazon and UPS aren’t an option.
- Expect to wait for results past Nov. 3. Election officials stress that delays are actually a sign that they are taking time to get the vote count right. “This is not a speed game,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) told me in April. “This is going to be an integrity and safety game.”