The ongoing coronavirus has sparked concerns among voters about having to gather at crowded polling places to cast a ballot in person. With COVID-19 cases predicted to rise in a second wave sometime around Election Day, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended mailing in your ballot where possible. But how do you request a mail-in ballot? The process isn't as difficult as you might think.
"Elections with only in-person voting on a single day are higher risk for COVID-19 spread because there will be larger crowds and longer wait times," the CDC has warned. "Consider voting alternatives available in your jurisdiction that minimize contact. Voting alternatives that limit the number of people you come in contact with or the amount of time you are in contact with others can help reduce the spread of COVID-19."
While all 50 states allow mail-in voting, some have requirements for who can use the service and why. The good news is that many states have expanded their mail-in or absentee voting due to coronavirus concerns. And some states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington — will automatically send mail-in ballots to all registered voters this year, meaning residents in those states don't need to worry about requesting a mail-in ballot, according to USA Today.
In fact, USA Today has reported only six states have opted not to make mail-in voting available to all voters. In Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas mail-in ballots will only be made available to those who meet specific eligibility requirements such as being a member of the military, age 65 or older, or who will be out of town on Election Day.
No matter where you live, it's a good idea to first check and make sure you're registered to vote. You can easily confirm your voter registration using your name, address, and date of birth through Vote.org. From there, you'll want to learn your state's specific rules and requirements for absentee or mail-in voting. That information can be obtained by visiting the Can I Vote website run by the The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and selecting your state from the dropdown menu.
You will then automatically be taken to your state's absentee or mail-in voting information page. Many voters will find their state's Online Absentee Ballot Applications on this page if one is required. Those that don't find the necessary application, however, might try searching the phrase "Absentee Ballot Application" or "Absentee Ballot Request" along with their state's name in any major internet search engine. Vote.org can also help voters request an absentee ballot.
Once you've requested your mail-in ballot, plan how you'll submit your ballot ahead of the election. Recent operation changes at the U.S. Postal Service have led USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall to warn state election officials that even ballots mailed back promptly might not be delivered in time to be counted. As NBC News has reported, many have questioned whether President Donald Trump's repeated questioning of mail-in voting (despite using the service himself) has influenced USPS officials to purposefully slow delivery times ahead of the election.
To ensure their ballot is counted, voters in many states have been encouraged to drop them off at designated drop boxes or polling locations rather than mailing them.
Have you registered to vote yet? Click here to confirm your voice is heard in the 2020 Election.