Mail-in Voting: Know Your Options

William Mashburn
wmashburn@lc.edu

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, the idea of mail-in voting has become more popular. Covid-19 has been an issue that we have had to adapt and live with. Many people believe mail-in voting is the way to go for the upcoming election. However, there are some who do not believe this voting method is valid or that it is “Too risky,” and corrupt. Some questions are, how would it work? Is it actually safe? And who qualifies to vote by mail? 

Believe it or not, some states already offer mail-in voting options even outside of a global pandemic. These states include Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and North Dakota, along with many others that have some form of mail-in voting. In order to cast a vote, you will need to be a registered voter in the state you reside in. For those who have voted on previous elections in their state, the state will go off those past registrations in order to send you a ballot. For new voters, you will still be required to sign up and op-in for a mail-in option at the place of registration. Some places to sign up to vote are: Courthouses, Online, Polling stations and sometimes registered pollers will set up at public events. With Covid19, online is probably the best option. With each state being different it is a good idea to check and make sure you have all the documentation needed to sign up to vote. 

What about safety? If you receive a mail-in ballot it will come just like any other piece of mail. If you have voted in the past the sheet will look similar to the ones you are used to. However, they may be slightly different in design to accommodate for Covid19. This would only be done to keep things in order to make sure the votes are counted accurately. One thing to keep in mind if you receive a mail-in ballot is that it will be your only way to vote in the upcoming elections. You can not go to a polling location and vote in person if you are under the mail-in option. This is done to prevent double voting and corruption. So, if you are one of the people who are worried that voting by mail is unsafe, there is some information for you to help you understand it is a safe and valid voting option. There are some concerns that are also brought up about this option though. For example, losing the physical ballots; a vote can not be counted if the physical paper is not present or turned in on time. This can lead to an unbalanced and unfair voting advantage. Another concern is counter input. This is when a human has to manually enter the voter’s choice into a system to be counted. Bias counters could have a small impact on what vote comes out of the states. If the votes are counted by scanning a barcode this would prevent any human bias.

Now, who qualifies to vote by mail? As I stated before, if you are a previous voter they will use last year’s information. So if you signed up for in-person voting you will not receive a ballot by mail. If you reside in a state that will only be accepting mail-in ballots you have nothing to worry about. It’s a good idea to keep your information updated with your preferred voting location so they can contact you in case some information, such as an address, has changed. New voters will have to go in person to sign up and provide all information that will be needed. Any registered voter does have the option to get a mail-in ballot for their vote. However, some states who will offer in-person and by mail may have some other restrictions you may need to know about. Call up to your local official’s office and double-check on the process you are seeking. 

Mail-in voting is just another one of the many things we have to learn to adapt to with Covid 19. It is safe and effective, and all who can vote can sign up. If you’re old fashioned and prefer to be in person make sure your poll station will allow for that, and keep all information up to date in case they do mail-in voting only. 

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