How to Vote By Mail: Answers to Literally Every Question You Have

voting by mail faq

Every vote cast should be counted, including yours. Here are the answers to the most common questions on how to vote by mail to make sure you get it right.

1. Is mail-in voting fraudulent?

There is absolutely no proof of widespread mail-in voter fraud. None. Don’t let any false information confuse you. It’s secure, legitimate, and there are important rules to follow.

2. How do I fill out my mail-in ballot?

Read the instructions, then re-read them. Fill in your ballot as directed. Make sure you fill in both the front and the back of the ballot (if applicable). Partially filled in bubbles will not be counted, so this is important to do as directed.

3. What if I make a mistake on my mail-in ballot?

If you make a mistake on your ballot, don’t try to fix it with white-out. Instead, you’ll need to request a replacement ballot by calling your local election office (you can find your closest election office here).

4. What signature is it supposed to “match”?

You will be asked to sign your ballot to verify you are the individual who completed it. Your signature needs to match what election officials have on file. Some states are stricter about this than others.

Sign your ballot the same way you signed your driver’s license or when you registered to vote. If you can’t remember which version of your signature you used, contact your local election office to update the version they have on file.

5. Do I need to have an official witness when I fill in my mail-in ballot?

It depends on which state you live in. Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have requirements on having a witness or notary public be present while you complete your ballot and they must sign the ballot testifying to this.

States have been going back and forth in the courts over the requirement of having a notary or witness given the ongoing pandemic. To play it safe, check out this resource for in-depth instructions on who counts as a witness and what your state requires specifically.

6. How do I seal the envelope?

Again, follow the instructions included with your ballot on how to seal it.

Most importantly, send only one ballot per envelope, even if multiple people in your home are voting by mail. And do not use tape on your envelope to seal it as this can result in your ballot being rejected.

7. Do I need to put a first-class stamp on my ballot to mail it?

Some states provide pre-paid postage on their mail-in ballots while others do not. Your ballot should include directions related to postage. If you need to add postage, purchase First-Class stamps from your local USPS (find yours here) or online here and add one to your ballot. As long as it’s a First-Class or Forever stamp, you’re good to go.

8. When should I mail my ballot by?

ASAP. Many states have different laws regarding when a mail-in ballot must be postmarked by in order to be counted. A good rule of thumb is getting it postmarked 10 days before the election, which is coming up quickly. The last thing you want is for your vote not to be counted because it arrived too late.

9. Do I have to mail my mail-in ballot?

No. If you want to be 100% sure your ballot is counted, the safest bet is to drop it off in-person at an official drop box location, early voting poll site, local election offices, or you can bring it to a poll site on Election Day (find your local polling place here).

Hundreds of thousands of ballots may cause the USPS unexpected delays, so dropping your ballot off in person makes sure it’s counted no matter what.

10. What do I do if my mail-in ballot never arrived?

Contact your local election office ASAP and prepare to vote in person.

11. If I received a mail-in ballot but I want to vote in person instead, can I?

Yes! Do not complete your mail-in ballot. Bring the blank mail-in ballot with you just in case you are asked to return it at the poll site on Election Day. (Very rare but is required in some states).

12. What if I run into other issues with my mail-in ballot?

Election Protection is here to help you. Made up of over 100 local, state, and national partners, Election Protection helps voters ensure their votes get counted through a variety of free resources:

For English: Dial 866-OUR-VOTE – Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

For Español or English: Dial 888-VE-Y-VOTA – NALEO Educational Fund

For Arabic or English: Dial 844-YALLA-US – Arab American Institute (AAI)

For Asian Languages or English: Dial 888-API-VOTE – APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)

Voter suppression efforts are still very real in 2020, but these are the steps you can take to guarantee your vote will be counted.


First Time Voter? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Shannon Vize
Shannon Vize is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing has been published by Elite Daily, Taylor Magazine, CIO, and Forbes. When she’s not hate-binging the latest episode of The Bachelor franchise, she’s busy trying to dismantle the patriarchy by dissecting the latest anti-feminist theme in pop culture to anyone who will listen.