Topic of the Week 5 mistakes that can disqualify your mail ballot and how to avoid them
Here are five common mistakes that could get your mail-in ballot challenged, disqualified, or not counted at all, and ways to avoid them.
1. Improperly filling out your ballot
When you get your mail ballot, be sure to fill it out on a flat dry surfaceand carefully follow the instructions that come with it.
Ballot scanners can accept only certain colors of ink and ballots that are filled out properly. Ballots can't have stray marks or multiple choices filled in for the same office.
You don't want to use red ink, marker, or anything that could be problematic. If your instructions say to use black or blue ink, use black or blue ink. If it says fill in the oval, fill in the oval. It's really critical for voters to follow the instructions more than anything.
And in some states, voters are required to seal and return their ballots in both an inner secrecy envelope and an outer envelope.
2. Forgetting to sign your envelope
Every state requires a voter to sign an affidavit on the outside of the envelope containing their mail ballot affirming their identity and eligibility to vote, so make sure you sign in every place that requires a signature.
3. Using a different signature from what your state has on file
Thirty-one states now use signature verification to confirm the authenticity of voted ballots. In this process, election officials cross-check the signature a voter used to sign their ballot envelope to see if it matches the voter's most recent signature on file with the elections office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or another government agency.
Signature matching adds an extra layer of security to ensure the integrity of mail ballots, but it can also lead to a greater share of ballots being challenged or rejected.
4. Not including required additional documentation
While most states will allow anyone to vote by mail in November, not all states' rules are created equal. Some states require voters to take additional steps, like having a signature from a witness, to authenticate their ballot.
Thirteen states require all or some voters to submit a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballots, and most people in Oklahoma and Missouri who vote by mail must get their ballot envelopes notarized.
5. Sending your ballot back too late
One of the most common reasons mail ballots are rejected is that they arrive too late or lack a postmark.
Out of the 40 states not sending voters a ballot in the mail in November, 31 allow voters to request their ballots by mail within seven days of the election.
This year, 26 states require ballots to be received by Election Day or the day before in order to count, while 24 states and the District of Columbia require ballots to be postmarked by Election Day or the day before. If you're in a state where a ballot must be received by Election Day, the Postal Service recommends that you put your ballot in the mail at least a week in advance.
- Business Insider
Thought of the Week
"This process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications"
–Alexander Hamilton, American Politician and Founding Father of the U.S.
Weekly Comic by Jerry King
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from US Election Assistance Commission
- 33 million, or 23.7% of voters, cast ballots by mail in the 2016 presidential election. More than 318,000 of those votes, accounting for about 1% of the mail ballots that arrived at election offices, ended up being rejected.
- 46 states and the District of Columbia are offering all voters the option to vote from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Absentee voting rates vary dramatically across states, depending on the ease with which individuals can cast an absentee ballot in a state. Nationally, 80.1 percent of absentee ballots transmitted to voters were returned, and most states reported that over 90 percent of absentee ballots “returned and submitted for counting” were ultimately counted in the 2016 General Election.
- Between the close of voter registration for the 2014 election and the close of voter registration for the 2016 election, more than 77.5 million voter registration applications were received by states.