The Early Bird Gets Their Vote Counted

A few minutes ago I placed my mail in ballot request in the mail. My state won’t start mailing out the ballots for about a month yet but being early is a key to having your vote count and staying alive. There is more; let’s explore.

Every state has a different set of rules when it comes to mail in voting and in several states the rules are still evolving. For example, Nevada just authorized mailing a ballot to every registered voter in the state and Trump went ballistic threatening to sue. What I expect to happen is the Republican National Committee (RNC) will file a suit that will be dismissed as frivolous.

The first step is to visit your state Board of Elections’ website and see what the provisions/allowances are for mail in voting. On a national level the battleground states and/or those with Senate seats up in 2020 are the most important. Even if you don’t live in one of them there are local contests of importance. In many cases people actually care more about local policy. If you want a sewer or stop sign there is no sense in petitioning the President of your U.S. Senator.

Importantly, while you are on the site verify that you are listed as an active voter and therefore eligible to vote.

Many states allow no excuse mail in voting. If you live in one of them you are all set. I live in North Carolina which is both a battleground state and has a pivotal Senate race. Fortunately it has no restrictions on which registered voters can request a mail in ballot. If your state imposes restrictions (i.e. age, will be out of state, etc.) see if you qualify.

Different states have different rules on submitting a request for a mail in ballot. The most common way to request one is to correctly fill out a form and mail it in. This is not a something you do every day so please read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter!

While most states have something resembling “eleventh hour” deadlines don’t be a last minute person! Without getting too far into the weeds today there is no doubt that the Trump administration is making an effort to significantly weaken the USPS. If all the requests come in late, many will not be delivered to the Board of Elections in time. Taking that a step further, the Board of Elections – no matter how good their intentions – has finite resources and will be overwhelmed if they face a late “avalanche”.

OK, let’s assume you did all the right things and your ballot arrives well before Election Day. Again, don’t be a last minute person! Fill it out as soon as possible and return it. Please read, reread and follow the instructions. The mail in ballots that get rejected are overwhelmingly because the voter filled them out incorrectly. Don’t be that person! Again, we want to avoid being caught in a last minute “avalanche”.

State to state will vary but generally you have a few options as to how to return your completed ballot. Traditionally the most common method is to mail them back. 2020 is a different situation than any voter living today has confronted. The last presidential election conducted during a pandemic was 1920 and the Spanish Flu pandemic was about over by November 1920. In many states with early voting you can return them at an early voting site. To me the main reason to cast your 2020 ballot via mail is to avoid the lines and personal contact. You won’t avoid either at an early voting site. (Generally I am a fan of early voting and since moving to two early voting states have almost always voted that way. This year is unique.)

Many states have what I will call drop box voting. You literally drive up and drop your completed ballot in what resembles an old fashioned mailbox. If your state has been doing this for some time and it is convenient that is not a bad way to go. The important part is that you know the Board of Elections has received your ballot. In that way it is just like voting in person. Let’s face it, what happens after that is out of our sight and out of our control. Like many things in life, ultimately you are only responsible for your actions.

If your state allows I suggest you personally return your properly completed ballot directly to the Board of Elections. If you don’t wait until the last minute you will avoid lines and minimize personal contact. It should be no different than going to a store at a non-peak time. That is what I intend to do. There is chance a designated member or two of your family can effectively be the “delivery person(s)”. Check the rules in your state but often certain relatives can physically turn your completed ballot into the Board of Elections.

The steps I outlines are less than totally comfortable but they avoid several potential pitfalls in the 2020 electoral process. I expect a shortage of poll workers which will mean late openings, long lines and shifted precincts with little or no notice creating confusion and inconvenience on Election Day. This isn’t even considering hacking, GOP “poll watchers” and paramilitary at certain precincts. Surfing a website, completing a few forms in the comfort of my home and a ride to an office seem like a vacation compared to that.

This may have been one of the nerdiest and most boring articles I will write in 2020, but it is definitely one of the most important. Take your time reading and completing the forms but be an early bird in the process regardless of which “path” you choose. You won’t get an unwanted worm but you will get your vote to count while staying safe.

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