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3 Things To Know Before You Send In Your Absentee Ballot

Cover Photo by Element5 Digital via Unsplash

As election season reaches its zenith in the next few weeks, many of us will, for the first time, not be heading to the polls. Mail-in and absentee ballot counts are bound to soar in this election cycle. (If you haven’t registered yet, check out this piece on how to do so.) 

At of the end of September, the New York Times reported the number of absentee ballots already requested and/or distributed to voters across 39 states and the District of Columbia at a whopping 72 million. (In case you’re curious, that figure tops the combined 2019 population estimates for California, Texas, Nebraska, and Alaska.)

The process seems simple enough — request your ballot, receive your ballot, fill out your ballot, mail said ballot back. However, there’s a number of faux pas that can jeopardize the legitimacy of your ballot. Here’s 3 things you should know to make sure your vote gets taken into account.

 

1. Be mindful of your signature. 

As we’ve mentioned, (click here to weigh in on whether or not voter confusion is the new voter suppression), the signature you write on your ballot should look like the one that your state has on record for you, such as the forms you signed when applying for your ballot or registering to vote. A requirement to compare these two signatures exists in roughly 31 states, although many of these states have “notice and cure” procedures that allow voters to address any issues that pop up. Please remember — your absentee ballot is not the place to test out a fun, new, fancy way of signing your name. 

 

2. Those two envelopes are there for a reason!

I’m looking specifically at you, Pennsylvania. The swing state’s Supreme Court has upheld that any ballots lacking the additional “secrecy envelope” (a second envelope used to protect voter privacy) will be discarded in the upcoming election. If you want your vote to stay in the running, be sure to avoid falling prey to the so-called “naked ballot.”

 

3. It might be best to hold off on that selfie. 

Ah, the ballot selfie. The classic mark of democratic pride and civic duty, especially for all of those bright-eyed first-time voters. In some spots, though, sharing a photo of you and your proudly filled-out ballot is prohibited. While the laws by state on this issue are nuanced, you might choose to opt for a more failsafe way of spreading the word that you exercised your right to vote. The National Conference of State Legislatures suggests commemorating the moment with your “I Voted” sticker or local “Vote Here” signage instead. 

Will you be making sure your vote counts in this election? Let us know in the poll below. 

Cover Photo by Element5 Digital via Unsplash

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Written by Megan Pontin

Enthusiastic word-collector, avid pancake-consumer, and experienced hammock-lounger. Student at Cornell University.

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