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Vote By Mail in the Presidential Election: Everything You Need to Know

Updated on August 6, 2020
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Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.


Every United States Presidential Election is important. Considering what has been going on in the last four years, the upcoming election on November 3, 2020, is extremely important. Everyone needs to vote without making excuses. Every state has made it convenient for registered voters to vote in different ways.

There are three ways to vote:

  1. in person
  2. by absentee voting
  3. voting by mail

Everyone knows that in-person voting is when people stand in long lines for hours in rain or shine at their local polling place to cast their vote in person on Election Day. This year, the in-person voting is the least favorite because of the pandemic. Even so, polling places will be available for those who prefer voting in person.

That leaves absentee voting and mail-in voting. So, what is the difference and which one is the most preferred?

Know Which Is Which

Absentee voting and mail-in-voting are thought to be the same, but they are quite different even though both ballots are completed at home and mailed. Every state in the United States allows both absentee and mail-in voting.

The purposes of the two types are different. Each state has its own rules for both types. If you haven't made up your mind about which method you plan to use, perhaps knowing the rules for your particular state will help you decide.


Absentee Voting

Absentee voting refers to ballots that are requested and then mailed when a person doesn't vote in person. In the past, many states only allowed voters to get an absentee ballot if they were deployed with the United States armed forces, were sick, or would be away from their own polling place on Election Day.

The pandemic that doesn't seem to be slowing down will cause more people to choose absentee voting. To limit the spread of the virus, 35 states are allowing all voters to apply for an absentee ballot. More states might come on board with their mail-in absentee voting policies. In previous years, voters were required to explain why they wanted an absentee ballot. That is no longer the case in most states, according to Ballotpedia.

Voters still need to complete an application for a ballot unless they live in a state where applications are sent automatically. Check to see if you live in one of those states. While there is still time, check your state's absentee ballot laws to see what the current requirements are. Click on this link to find your state or local election office.


Mail-In Voting

More Americans are expected to cast their ballots by mail for the first time this year. The terms absentee voting and mail-in voting are often used interchangeably. Some people confuse absentee voting and mail-in voting because they both are completed at home and mailed.

Some states are expanding absentee ballot eligibility during the pandemic to include people who won't physically be absent from their local voting place on Election Day. According to, mail-in voting has become very popular, and more people than ever before are expected to vote that way for the upcoming election.

California, Delaware, and Illinois and some other states will automatically mail applications to all eligible voters without them being requested.


Questions About Voting Before November 3

Some people know about early voting, but many people don't know what that is and who can use that method. Early voting is the method that allows qualified voters to cast their ballots as early as 45 days before an election, or as late as the week before the election. The purpose of early voting is to get a head start on the voting process. It is is a way to increase voter turnout and to decrease traffic at the polls on Election Day.

If you are wondering if your ballot will count if you cast it before the official Election Day, the answer is a definite "Yes." Every single vote is counted in local or presidential elections no matter which method you use. However, be careful to follow the rules and the deadline for submissions.

Ballots that come in from people who are abroad at the time of the election are sometimes counted in the days after an election. All mail-in ballots are included in the final total of votes.

Voting Reminders

Make sure your ballot is not rejected because you didn't complete it properly. According to a US Election Assistance Commission report, here are three main reasons your ballot could be rejected.

  • Missing signature
  • Unverified signature
  • Ballots received after the deadline

Make sure you read the directions carefully to complete your ballot as you are instructed to do. States have different rules for requesting and mailing absentee ballots. Therefore, check your state's deadlines and other requirements. If you are concerned about your ballot going through the postal service, you can return your ballot to your local clerk's office.

Please Share

This article answers a lot of questions United States citizens might have about voting in the November 3 Presidential Election. Please share with others so they can also be informed about voting in a way that is convenient for them.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Danny Fernandes profile image


      6 weeks ago from India

      Mam, thanks for the informative article. Yes, sometimes the person is not in a particular state at the time of voting. I guess some standards of setting a vote by email is necessary, especially for us Indians. I don't know about other countries. but of course, your article is an eye-opener.


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