Politics Huge swing state hurdle: returning your absentee ballot
Fact check: Postal Service will deliver ballots with insufficient or unpaid postage
Posts claim that voters must affix two stamps to mail-in ballots. In actuality, the rates vary by state, and the USPS will deliver ballots regardless.Virus outbreak forces Van Gogh exhibit relocation to Sydney
Donald Trump | mail in ballot Getty Images/SalonThis article was produced by , a of the Independent Media Institute.
Across the country, the Democratic Party and voting rights groups have beento make it easier to vote in the presidential election. But no ruling addresses an issue that some experienced election officials foresee as likely to delay voting at Election Day polling places on November 3.
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Voting By Mail? Here Are the Deadlines in Every U.S. StateBefore the pandemic, five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah—already held all-mail elections, meaning every active registered voter automatically received a ballot in the mail that would allow them to bypass a physical polling place. Due to COVID-19, several more states, including California and New Jersey, are adopting this model for the 2020 election. Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. already allowed for “no excuse” mail-in absentee ballots, meaning voters can request a mail-in ballot without having to meet certain qualifications.
What may trigger voter confusion and traffic jams are rules that do not allow voters to simply drop off an absentee ballot at an Election Day poll. In some states, those voters can wait in line and, after some completing some paperwork, will get to vote with a regular or provisional ballot. Or those voters can go to a local government office to return their absentee ballot or find a drop box if that return option is offered.
"It looks like a little tiny thing, but it is a major thing," said, a former election official and Michigan Election Reform Alliance statewide coordinator, speaking of voters not being able to simply return an absentee ballot at any Election Day precinct. "One reason we worked so hard to get these drop boxes is so that people don't get caught in these traps."
Judge extends deadline for absentee ballots to be received in Wisconsin
The ruling, which says absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day can be counted if received up to six days after Election Day, will almost certainly be appealed. Because of that likelihood, Conley stayed his decision for a week and urged people to still take action early. "In recognition of the likelihood of appellate review, however, this order is STAYED for one week, and NO voter can depend on any extension of deadlines for electronic and mail-in registration and for receipt of absentee ballots unless finally upheld on appeal," Conely wrote.
In, , , , , and , there are varying scenarios awaiting voters who might think that they can quickly return an absentee ballot at an Election Day poll. Those voters face additional hurdles that they may not know about or anticipate. This snafu was previewed in some of 2020's primary elections.
"It has already happened in the previous two elections," BenDor said, referring to Michigan's March presidential and August state primaries.
"Some voters in , for example, reported confusion over where they could drop off their ballot in-person," an of August's primaries in 16 states by the said. "Though '[m]ost of Wisconsin's 1,850 municipalities count absentee ballots at the polling place where the voter would normally vote… 35 cities, villages and towns, including Milwaukee, count their absentee ballots at a central location.'" (Those jurisdictions want voters to return their ballots at the counting centers, not at polls.)
In North Carolina, Black voters' mail-in ballots much more likely to be rejected than those of any other race
North Carolina's disparity, similar to gaps in other states, raises concerns about systemic racism and voter disenfranchisement tainting elections.RALEIGH, North Carolina — Sandra Cosby is no stranger to the election process — or to voting by mail.
Election lawyers and scholars gave several explanations why this issue has not been in 2020's voluminous voting rights. To win voting rights cases, one has to show the right to vote has been harmed. Because there are options for these swing-state voters, however laborious, and because the shift to widespread voting by mail in a pandemic is unprecedented and has had many impacts, fixing this potential problem on November 3 has not been prioritized.
Nonetheless, experienced election officials have been saying during recent press briefings that they expect Election Day voting to be slower due to, including taking in the pandemic. These officials said that they expect poll workers will tell many unsuspecting voters that they will have to go through more steps to vote—including voters who mistakenly assume that they can just drop off an absentee ballot. Indeed, the rules on this part of the process may be the last thing on many voters' minds.
"There are stories around what we need our voters to know—and that is that you get to vote once," said Arizona's, who now is with the Democracy Fund, speaking at a 2020 convened by the . "But even that narrative is a little bit difficult because the president has said, 'Request an absentee ballot, vote it, and then go and try to vote in person, and see if you can test the security…' That [gambit] will further slow down voting."
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Interest in pre-Election Day voting is skyrocketing around the country, with more than 28 million ballots already requested and another 43 million set to be automatically mailed to voters, according to a CNN survey of election offices in 42 states and Washington, DC -- another sign of what is expected to be a record-shattering turnout. © LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images Stickers that read "I Voted By Mail" sit on a table waiting to be stuffed into envelopes by absentee ballot election workers at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2020.
"There will be issues—some we planned for and some we haven't," said, a former Colorado election official who is now a consultant on post-election audits, at the media summit. "What I think we are going to see, what we are seeing already, are some incredible challenges to the way we administer and conduct our elections."
Hurdles removed, hurdles remain
Since Labor Day, there have beenfor Democrats and voting rights groups that will make some aspects of voting easier in swing states and ensure that more ballots will be counted. (The notable exception has been Florida Republicans winning in to block more than a million ex-felons from paying fines and restoring their right to vote.)
"We just got the BEST news of the cycle in Pennsylvania today," said Marc Elias, the Democrat's top election protection lawyer, on September 17, referring to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court'sto let absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day be counted if the ballots arrive by Friday, November 6, as well as to allow ballot drop boxes to be used, and to require that any partisan poll watcher be from the county they are monitoring. However, Pennsylvanians with absentee ballots still the ballots to their county election office on November 3.
Voters' poorly marked ovals could lead to contested ballots
ATLANTA (AP) — Two decades ago, Florida's hanging chads became an unlikely symbol of a disputed presidential election. This year, the issue could be poorly marked ovals or boxes. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) 3/3 SLIDES © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this July 1, 2020, file photo, Marianne Carver, of Pennsauken, N.J., drops off her ballot for the New Jersey primary election at a vote-by-mail drop box in a parking lot at Camden County College in Cherry Hill, N.J.
(The Republican National Committeean on September 22 seeking to stay—or freeze—the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling, including an that they would seek a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the extension of ballot return timetables.)
That same Election Day ballot return rule is also applicable in, where voters can drop off absentee ballots at early voting locations but not Election Day polls. In , the ballots also must be returned to county election offices on November 3, although a recent ruling counties to deploy more than one drop box (if it is not blocked on appeal). In both of these states, should a voter insist on voting at an Election Day precinct, they will be given a provisional ballot. (This process involves some paperwork in addition to voting.)
and have slightly different absentee ballot return rules. Both of those states offer Election Day registration, which means that voters can surrender their absentee ballot and fill out forms to vote with a regular ballot. In Michigan, Democrats won suits to when ballots postmarked can be returned, and overturned laws barring voters from help to get driven to the polls and people to return another voter's ballot.
In Wisconsin, there are further variables.of the state's 1,850 election jurisdictions, including its biggest city, Milwaukee, want voters to return absentee ballots on Election Day to a counting center—not a local polling place. However, the rest of Wisconsin's townships will accept a voter's absentee ballot at an Election Day polling place.
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and have additionally differing rules. In both states, absentee ballot voters will be allowed to vote at polling places but not before poll workers update their voter file, which can take time. Georgia also will be using ballot drop boxes on November 3.
What can be done?
With the 2020 Election Day less than six weeks away, there is little time left for state legislatures to adopt new voting rules or state election officials to issue new rules to allow voters to return absentee ballots to all polling places on November 3, legal experts have said.
However, that does not preclude governors or top statewide election officials—usually secretaries of state—from issuing narrow emergency rules to assist voters in a pandemic, the experts said. They noted that orders from state constitutional officers who sought to delay this spring's presidential primaries that were opposed by GOP-majority state legislatures (and, in some cases, blocked by federal courts) are not of the same magnitude as allowing voters to return absentee ballots at Election Day polling places.
Facilitating expeditious ballot returns could be justified as a public health response during the pandemic, a former secretary of state said. Another constitutional scholar said that some states with Democratic constitutional officers were looking at potential Election Day issues and pondering emergency decrees. But he declined to be more specific.
Election 2020: How to track your mail-in ballot .
According to a CNN review, 45 states and the District of Columbia allow you to track your ballot just like an Amazon package or food delivery. How ballot tracking worksEach ballot gets a specific number: Most states, with the help of USPS, send ballots envelopes with a unique set of numbers for each individual voter. Those numbers are often known as Intelligent Mail Barcodes, which allow the Postal Service to track the ballot.You can register to track them: They also enable states and localities to use ballot-tracking websites.