Vote by Mail: Everything You Need to Know

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Vote by Mail
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Despite any debate by partisan pundits or the candidates themselves, voting by mail is very much a valid form of voting. Both President Donald Trump and the First Lady have requested their mail-in ballots, after all, and "if it's good enough for Donald Trump," Joe Biden tweeted, "then it's good enough for you and me."

Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama recently shared a similar sentiment. "Fair and safe voting is going to be more important than ever this year," she explained. "Make sure your friends, families and communities are registered, know their rights and are fully prepared to vote by mail this year or vote early in person."

Skipping the line and saving time is always a plus, but especially this year -- amid the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic -- it's important to be versed in the ins and outs of voting by mail. Unfortunately, that is not always as straightforward as you might think.

To make sure you're as informed as Mrs. Obama wants you to be, we've compiled this handy guide to get you all set for November's election.

First, a PSA

The name of the game this year is EARLY. This election -- perhaps more than ever before -- will rely on mail-in voting, and the United States Postal Service has become a political battleground. To offset fears of mail delay and USPS underfunding, request your ballot early. Mail your ballot back early. Vote early.

Who Can Vote by Mail?

All states allow absentee voting. However, absentee voting rights differ from state to state. Depending on where you live, you may need to provide a reason as to why you can't vote in person; other states conduct elections entirely by mail.

Either way, you must be registered to vote first, so check your status.

How Do I Vote by Mail?

Do you live in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont or Washington? If so, eligible voters will automatically get their ballots mailed to them this year.

Thirty-three states require that you actually request an absentee ballot, with Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Wisconsin mailing you the absentee applications this year.

Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee and Texas require that you provide an excuse why you need an absentee ballot, and pandemic fears are not considered a valid excuse, for some reason. (Valid excuses include illness and being out of state.)


The deadline to submit an absentee application is anywhere from 21 days to the day before the election -- check your state's deadline here -- so do it sooner rather than later. Now seems like the perfect time, doesn't it?

Returning Your Ballot

The first -- and most obvious -- way to return your ballot is by mail. Make sure you check your state's deadline (below) so that it is postmarked in time to be counted. Considering the state of USPS, get it in ASAP.

Before mailing your ballot in, double check that you've signed everywhere that needs signing -- the voter's oath or your return envelope, etc. -- and that meet your witness requirements. (Generally, anyone can serve as your witness. A notary is required in Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma.)

If you do not follow the rules exactly, your ballot could be thrown out.

Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Washington, meanwhile, allow you to drop off your ballot in-person at any polling place. New Hampshire and Vermont require you drop it off at your polling place.

Vote by Mail Deadlines

Like everything involved in voting by mail, the deadline your ballot must be received by differs depending on where you live. Below is the absolute latest your ballot can be received and still be counted. That said: You are absolutely encouraged to send it in as early as possible.

Alabama: Postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by noon on Election Day.

Alaska: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 10 days of Election Day.

Arizona: Received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Arkansas: Received by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

California: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 3 days of Election Day.

Colorado: Received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Connecticut: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Delaware: Received before polls close on Election Day.

D.C.: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 7 days of Election Day.

Florida: Received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Georgia: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Hawaii: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Idaho: Received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Illinois: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 14 days of Election Day.

Indiana: Received on Election Day.

Iowa: Postmarked by Nov. 2 and received before noon the Monday after Election Day.

Kansas: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 3 days of Election Day.

Kentucky: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Louisiana: Received by Nov. 2.

Maine: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Maryland: Postmarked by Nov. 3.

Massachusetts: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Michigan: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Minnesota: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Mississippi: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 5 days of Election Day.

Missouri: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Montana: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Nebraska: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Nevada: Received before polls close on Election Day.

New Hampshire: Received by 5:00 p.m. on Election Day.

New Jersey: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 48 hours of Election Day.

New Mexico: Received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

New York: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 7 days of Election Day.

North Carolina: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 3 days of Election Day.

North Dakota: Postmarked by Nov. 2.

Ohio: Postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within 10 days of Election Day.

Oklahoma: Received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Oregon: Received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Pennsylvania: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by 5 p.m. on the Friday after Election Day.

Rhode Island: Received by 9:00 p.m. on Election Day.

South Carolina: Received before polls close on Election Day.

South Dakota: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Tennessee: Received before polls close on Election Day.

Texas: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by 5 p.m. the day after Election Day.

Utah: Postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within 7-14 days of Election Day.

Vermont: Received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Virginia: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 3 days of Election Day.

Washington: Postmarked by Nov. 3.

West Virginia: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 5 days of Election Day.

Wisconsin: Received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Wyoming: Received before polls close on Election Day.


You can still choose to vote in person, too. If you received an absentee ballot, bring it with you, or you may have to cast a provisional ballot. And stay safe -- grab your most patriotic mask, maintain social distancing and be sure to thank your polling place staffers.

Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020 -- head over to Vote.org to register to vote and to get all the latest information.

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