A real-life guide on how to properly vote by mail.
Now it’s up to you!
This is a follow-up to my recent post, “A Guide to Registering and Voting” https://around-the-block.com/2020/09/24/a-guide-to-registering-and-voting/.
I received my own vote-by-mail packet from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections on Saturday. With that packet in hand, I wanted to provide a real-life guide on how to properly vote by mail and help to ensure that ballots are filled out accurately and returned correctly and on time.
Please note: the following will vary by state and even by county – but should be similar. For specific information about your own jurisdiction, go to the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) website: https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote?section_index=1§ion_name=big_story&te=1&nl=the-morning&emc=edit_nn_20200924 for more information.
1. The Incoming Envelope
If you registered and requested a vote-by-mail or absentee ballot, you should have received, or will soon receive, an envelope like this with the ballot and instructions inside.
Inside this envelope, you’ll find:
2. A “Thank You For Voting By Mail” Card
Please note that this card warns “Ballots must be received in the Election Main Office by 7:00 p.m. on Election Night to be counted.” Some states will accept ballots postmarked by Election Day. Check your state’s rules. But be forewarned, be prepared and, to help make your vote count, VOTE EARLY!
3. The Ballot
Three key things to remember about the ballot:
- Fill in the oval COMPLETELY.
- Use a BLACK BALLPOINT PEN (or what marking protocol your ballot requires).
- If you make a mistake, do not try to fix the error – ASK FOR A NEW BALLOT.
Not abiding by any of these instructions may invalidate your ballot!
4. The Secrecy Sleeve
The “Secrecy Sleeve” is designed to protect your right to vote secretly but is the item that is getting most of the attention in the news (it might be called an “envelope” in other states). Why? Because it is the most easily overlooked item in your package; if your ballot is not inserted into this sleeve, it will become a “Naked Ballot” and WILL NOT BE COUNTED!
In Palm Beach County, the Secrecy Sleeve also provides more reminders about the timing of mail-in balloting. Please heed them:
5. The Return Envelope
The above images show the front, open back and ready to seal back of the return envelope. Make sure your ballot is in the Secrecy Sleeve, place the Secrecy Sleeve in the return envelope and then seal it. Sign, date and print your name where indicated. That’s it.
Signatures are critical. They are are matched against voter registration records to guard against voter fraud. A missing signature means a ballot won’t be counted. A signature that doesn’t match what’s on file is flagged and won’t be counted.
6. Don’t trust the mail – here are options
There are alternatives for people who have waited too long to return their ballots or don’t trust the Postal Service. The slowdown in the mail this year, and the moves by the new postmaster general to cut expenses, have made many people distrustful of the mail.
If you don’t want to use the mail, get the ballot back in time using one of these methods:
- All early voting sites accept mail ballots. From Oct. 19 through Nov. 1, the last day of early voting, there will be 22 early voting sites in Broward County, 18 in Palm Beach County and 33 in Miami-Dade County. The drop boxes will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in all three counties and on weekdays and weekends. People who drop off their mail ballots at early voting sites need to place them in the return envelope with a signature and date just as if they were placing it in the mail.
- Ballots can be returned at Supervisors of Elections offices. Those secure drop boxes are limited in number, but they accept ballots on Monday, Nov. 2 and Election Day, Nov. 3.
- Vote in person. If a voter receives a mail ballot and wants to vote in person during the 14 days of early voting or on Election Day, that’s allowed. Make sure you bring your mail-in-ballot with you just to be safe. State law doesn’t allow people to drop off mail ballots at neighborhood polling places on Election Day.
Remember, Florida is one of the states that begins counting mail-in-ballots early – at 7 a.m., 22 days before Election Day. That means the more early mail-in-ballots, the more likely we’ll know Florida election results on, or close to, election day. As one of the most critical “swing states,” that’s important.
One last thing:
If you know friends, relatives or acquaintances who you believe might have trouble voting or following the instructions, reach out to them. Assist them. Send them this post. Have them check voting guides in their local newspapers. It doesn’t matter their political persuasion. What does matter, is their sacred right to vote.
Do the right thing and make sure your vote, and the votes of the people you know, count!