Demystifying Vote-by-Mail for All Americans

Shot of a person's hands at a table filling out an absentee ballot
A voter fills out an absentee ballot. Photo by Ted Pink / Alamy Stock Photo.

Americans remain concerned about the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic and rightly so. These concerns can play a role in deciding whether voting absentee or mailing in your ballot is a viable, safe, and secure alternative to voting in person.

The only voters who can vote by absentee or mail ballots are eligible citizens who provided their social security number or a valid form of identification to election officials.

Voting by mail continues to gain support as an option to supplement in-person voting among voters nationwide. A July 2020 Voting Rights Action poll found that an overwhelming majority (84%) of voters nationwide — including 89% of Black voters and 88% of Latino/a voters — said that "voting using an absentee ballot sent to your home, by mailing the ballot back" is safe.

The poll also showed that 87% (including 93% of Black voters and 88% of Latino/a voters) saw dropping their mail ballot off at a secure drop box as a safe method of exercising your right to vote.

Here’s what you need to know to familiarize yourself with the process of absentee voting and vote-by-mail.

Ensuring integrity of the voting process

Voters who request (or are sent) their ballot in the mail still have options for voting. Voters can put their ballots in secure drop off locations placed throughout the community, take them to early vote centers, take them to polling places on Election Day, or they can go vote in person at their polling place. 

Ballot drop boxes are a safe and secure way for voters to return their ballots. Secure drop boxes have been used successfully all over the U.S., in states like Oregon and Washington, for years.

Absentee/vote-by-mail is already working successfully in many states

Absentee/vote-by-mail is an option in most states already. Five states conduct elections entirely by mail (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington). Twenty-nine states and D.C. offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, which means any voter can request a mail ballot without providing an excuse. 

It’s worth noting that the U.S. Postal Service is a trusted institution that enjoys a 91% favorable rating.

Absentee/vote-by-mail is welcomed by Americans of both parties

Absentee/vote-by-mail is completely nonpartisan, and leaders across the political spectrum support it. These leaders include Michigan’s Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, former Republican Secretary of Homeland Defense Tom Ridge, former Republican Senator and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and many others.  

Absentee/vote-by-mail is a tried and true method of voting, and it includes a paper trail and strong security measures that ensure the authenticity of ballots and track them from the day they are printed to the day they are counted.

Members of the military typically vote using absentee ballots.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we conduct daily life for all Americans, particularly amid a critical election year. Notwithstanding, one of our most fundamental rights as Americans is our right to cast a vote and ensure our democracy remains strong.

Hear two local election officials explain how voting by mail works, and hear their top message for voters: