Vote-by-mail is part of our new 2020 reality, but not everyone is used to the process — especially if it requires requesting your absentee ballot and then mailing it in. But it's easier than you think — and with many state deadlines quickly approaching, now is a very good time to get going.
More and more states are expanding mail-in voting ahead of the 2020 presidential election, as the country remains in the midst of a global public health crisis and nationwide uprisings against police brutality. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, some states opted to push for vote by mail in their primaries and encouraged people to stay home from the polls to keep everyone a little bit safer.
But some states also saw hiccups in the process. Sixteen states held primaries during the pandemic, with high and sometimes even record turnouts as they tested out rapid expansions of vote-by-mail. While millions of people were able to safely cast ballots without going to the polls, the push for mail-in-ballots on such a large scale and with little time also led to a variety of logistical issues. Ballots got lost in the mail, some of them never arriving at all. Others were printed incorrectly, with the wrong date or language.
Despite these issues, there is no indication of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 primaries, a false talking point President Donald Trump has regularly used in his attempts to curtail vote-by-mail efforts. And it bears remembering that millions of Americans already vote by mail all the time, without having to request an absentee ballot. Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah — conduct all-mail elections by default. Plus, vote-by-mail has broad public support.
The biggest issue with mail-in voting is the longer wait time for election results. Votes were still being counted a week after Pennsylvania’s presidential and statewide primary on June 2, where at least 1.4 million people cast their ballots by mail.
Such delays are leaving some experts wondering whether election results will be in by the normal election-night deadlines, and how that might affect results reporting in the presidential race, particularly in key battleground states like Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, among others.
“Due to the change in the election law, people need to realize that this is a different world we're living in now,” Nick Custodio, the deputy commissioner in Philadelphia told ABC News. “It's going to take longer than normal to get all the results.”
To make matters more confusing, every state has different rules and a different deadline to apply for and receive mail-in-ballots. In Connecticut, the deadline for absentee ballot applications is as little as one day before the election, which makes the turnaround time incredibly tight. In other states, a lengthier lead time is required to register.
Still, Democratic leaders suggest that mail-in voting is not only a logical solution for this moment, but a necessary step in making voting more democratic and preventing voter-suppression issues such as long lines.
The rapidly approaching November election will be one of the most important elections in recent history. It’s not too early to start figuring out how to receive your absentee ballot — in fact, now is the time to do it. You can find more information about your state’s vote-by-mail processes and deadlines here.