Your absentee ballot never showed up. Now what? | US elections 2020 | The Guardian

voting during a contentious presidential election and a pandemic is more than a little overwhelming. Like many Americans, you may have laid out a plan to vote by absentee ballot months ago, when November 3 seemed a lifetime away and no one knew what Election Day would look like. maybe he wasn’t sure where he would be, geographically speaking, and voting by mail seemed like the safest option. If you’re like me, when it came time to request your absentee ballot, he sent in his information and waited for the mail-in ballot to arrive, but it never did.

i requested my absentee ballot for new york on september 14th. two weeks later the status on my ballot tracker said “out of delivery” but no ballot ever came. one of my roommates requested her absentee ballot from pennsylvania on october 5th and she has reportedly been on the way since october 19th. Last week, queer eye star and Texan resident Jonathan Van Ness shared on Instagram that her absentee ballot was marked for delivery weeks earlier but never arrived, and the board of elections was unable to locate it.

why didn’t my absentee ballot arrive if i requested it before the deadline?

As states grapple with the challenges of voting during a pandemic, people across the country may find themselves without an absentee ballot days before the election for a multitude of reasons. An absentee ballot request form “may be marked invalid if it is not completed according to specific instructions or if it was sent before the postmark date but not received by the due date,” says Carolyn DeWitt , president and CEO of rock the vote. To make matters worse, “if a voter submitted an absentee application that was found to be invalid, she may not receive notification, in which case the voter may be waiting for a ballot that will never arrive.”

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another roommate of mine believed she had successfully requested her california absentee ballot online, only to learn that she also had to physically submit an absentee ballot application to her local board of elections. Meanwhile, the US Postal Service has been struggling to meet demands for more absentee ballots amid service delays this year.

did states have enough resources and time to set up voting by mail?

In short, the answer is no. While five states have held mail-in elections for years, including Oregon and Colorado, the rest were forced to adapt in a matter of months. “It takes several years for most states to transition to a vote-by-mail state, but the pressures and restrictions of covid-19 have put significant pressure on election officials, while the federal government has not provided the adequate resources,” says dewitt. “There are logistical hurdles, from buying, printing and mailing millions of absentee ballot request forms and absentee ballots to processing and counting absentee ballots.”

Congress awarded $400 million in election aid to states, but the Brennan Center for Justice estimated that $4 billion would be needed to create “free, fair, safe and secure” elections across the country. Donald Trump has also admitted to restricting funding for the USPS in hopes of curbing mail-in voting. with the entity responsible for delivering absentee ballots with insufficient resources, ballots may remain in processing or be lost until Election Day.

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what is the best way to track the status of my absentee ballot?

If you requested an absentee ballot but haven’t received it yet, you can track it online or by calling and emailing your local election official, says Ben Hovland, chairman of the United States Election Assistance Commission. You may be able to visit your local election office and speak with a representative, depending on their jurisdiction.

How do I vote if my absentee ballot is lost?

In case your ballot is not found, you have a few options. First, check to see if an absentee ballot can be picked up at your local election office. if so, you or someone you trust can pick it up and drop it off at a ballot drop box or your local election office quickly.

The most obvious option (voting in person) is also an option, but it has some hurdles to overcome. “Most states will require the voter to complete a standard affidavit or other form of documentation confirming that she never received the ballot. then the voter will be able to vote in person,” says dewitt. these affidavits are available at polling places and will be submitted with your vote in person. “In some cases, voters may be required to fill out a provisional ballot that will be counted once it has been verified that the voter has not yet voted.” this is the case in states like new jersey, alabama, texas, and california.

Provisional ballots are a safeguard to ensure people only vote once, Hovland explains. in theory, they are counted as long as you don’t return a complete absentee ballot, but there’s no guarantee. The 2018 Voting and Electoral Administration Survey reported that about 38% of provisional ballots were rejected in the 2018 election. Reasons for this included a voter not being registered in that jurisdiction, having incorrect identification, and having already voted . canceling your absentee ballot before you vote, as van ness reported, may allow you to vote in person.

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If voting in person is your only option, but the thought of doing so during a pandemic scares you, there are some precautions you can take, Hovland says. If possible, avoid peak voting hours before and after work, as well as lunchtime. check to see if early voting is taking place in your district and note that the polling place may be different from your polling place on Election Day. Some jurisdictions also provide voters with the ability to check wait times before going out to vote.

what if my absentee ballot arrives at the last minute?

Although the USPS advises against mailing your ballot more than a week before the election, if your ballot appears between now and Election Day, you can still use it. Some states, like Michigan and New York, allow you to deliver it in person or invalidate it at the polling station and cast your ballot there. In certain places, like Florida, voters can have their ballots delivered by someone else, DeWitt says. some jurisdictions may provide ballot pickup for disabled voters.

For more information on your state’s rules and practices for absentee ballots, visit the following resources:

  • vote.org breaks down absentee voting rules by state

    aclu outlines voting deadlines and laws

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