Mail-in voting vs. absentee voting: All the differences to know before Election Day

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This story is part of Elections 2020, PJDM’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

As coronavirus rates continue to spike in lots of areas throughout the US, most states are making it simpler to vote by mail in native elections in addition to the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 3. However every state has its personal guidelines for mail-in or absentee voting. Many are nonetheless within the technique of deciding how one can deal with voting during the pandemic. And with completely different phrases getting thrown round, it may be tough to determine what all the completely different choices truly imply. 

Here is what it’s essential to know concerning the completely different voting choices out there to you on election day and how one can discover out what your state is doing. 

Learn extra: Ahead of election 2020: Tips on finding information you can trust

What’s absentee voting? 

Each US state permits mail-in, absentee voting, however usually solely beneath sure circumstances. For instance, prior to now, many states solely allowed you to get an absentee poll should you had been deployed with the US armed forces, had been going to be out of city on Election Day or had been in poor health. 

Amid the pandemic, nevertheless, no less than 35 states have changed their mail-in absentee voting policies, permitting all voters to use for an absentee poll to chop down on the danger of spreading the virus. Some states are calling the expanded standards for absentee voting “no-excuse absentee voting,” a time period that signifies you need not clarify why you need an absentee poll as you have got prior to now — however you will nonetheless must fill out an utility and request one, both on-line or by way of mail. 

Nonetheless, different states have determined to mechanically ship each citizen an absentee poll or a type to fill out to request one. That is after we begin to see the time period mail-in voting — versus absentee voting — used to seek advice from a wider coverage of absentee voting for all. 

If you happen to’re within the US, you should be registered to vote earlier than you are eligible to get an absentee poll. (You’ll be able to register to vote online in 40 states and the District of Columbia.) However should you’re presently abroad or a navy member, you have got another choices. 

To seek out out your state’s present absentee poll legal guidelines, you should use this device to find your state or local election office

Learn extra: Next stimulus package: Every benefit you could get, along with a second check

What’s mail-in voting? 

The phrases absentee voting and mail-in voting are sometimes used interchangeably. Nonetheless, some election officers have began utilizing the time period “mail-in ballots” or “vote by mail” as a result of they’re increasing absentee poll eligibility through the pandemic to incorporate individuals who aren’t truly absent from their precinct on the time of voting. 

In various states, together with California, Delaware and Illinois, ballots will mechanically be mailed to each eligible voter with out request or utility wanted, so some election officers are utilizing the phrases “all-mail voting” or “common vote by mail.” Nonetheless, a restricted variety of polling locations will doubtless be out there for individuals who need to vote in individual. 

Finally, when states speak about mail-in voting, they’re speaking broadly about all ballots which can be despatched by way of the mail. In some states, this might imply all the no-excuse absentee ballots. In others, it may imply all the common vote by mail ballots. So completely different states could use completely different phrases.

Learn extra: Experts warn the coronavirus pandemic creates new election security threats.

So what’s the true distinction between absentee ballots and mail-in voting?

Usually, absentee ballots seek advice from ballots which can be requested after which mailed when an individual cannot vote in individual. Mail-in ballots seek advice from ballots within the context of insurance policies that permit all folks to vote by mail. 

Will my mail-in poll depend towards the ultimate election end result? 

Sure. All votes are counted in native or presidential elections, whether or not you solid a poll in individual or by mail. A typical fantasy is that absentee ballots are solely counted throughout tight races, however this is not appropriate. Many elections have a transparent winner and mailed-in ballots, lots of that are from overseas, are typically counted within the days after, which gives the look they weren’t included within the depend. The ultimate tally, nevertheless, does mirror mail-in ballots. As mail-in voting turns into extra in style, they are going to be extra integral to imminent election outcomes, noted. Election officers additionally say it is nearly impossible to commit voter fraud by mail

On Sept. 3, the US Division of Homeland issued an intelligence bulletin warning that Russia is prone to proceed amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail processes to undermine public belief within the US electoral course of. 

It is vital to notice that mail-in ballots — each conventional absentee ballots and widespread vote-by-mail ballots — may be rejected. Within the 2016 presidential election, lacking or unverified signatures, and late arrivals had been the most typical causes a poll would not be counted, based on a US Election Assistance Commission report. Be sure to learn the instructions in your poll fastidiously and fill it out appropriately. And when relevant, examine your state’s deadlines for requesting or mailing an absentee poll to ensure you get it despatched in time. 

What different kinds of voting are there?

Different kinds of voting embrace:

In-person voting: That is what you normally consider throughout an election: Folks going to an area polling location to solid their vote in individual on Election Day or earlier than. 

Early voting: Most states permit certified voters to solid a poll in individual throughout a chosen time earlier than Election Day. Early voting may start as early as 45 days earlier than an election, or as late because the week earlier than. The purpose is normally to extend voter turnout and reduce congestion on the polls on Election Day. Discover out in case your state affords early voting by searching for your state election office here.

For extra, try all of PJDM’s 2020 election coverage

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Alison DeNisco Rayome