Everything You Need to Know About Voting by Absentee Ballot

Election day is just over three months away, and it’s time to ensure that you are registered to vote! With COVID-19 cases still rising in many places in the U.S. and many college students remaining at home this fall, you may find yourself wondering how you can possibly vote in the upcoming election.

Luckily, absentee ballots allow you to vote for your preferred candidates from the comfort of your own home. While the rules for acquiring an absentee ballot may seem intimidating, don’t stress — it’s very easy to register for an absentee ballot and make your voice heard on Nov. 3.

Ensure you are already registered to vote.

Using this handy form, you can check your voter registration status. (I filled out the form myself and just like it says at the top, it literally takes 30 seconds.) If you are registered to vote, you are ready to request an absentee ballot! If you’re not, register to vote here with Her Campus and DoSomething.

Keep in mind that deadlines for voter registration vary from state to state, so be sure to check your state’s registration deadlines when you register. In Georgia, for instance, the voter registration deadline for the General Election is Oct. 5 (29 days before Election Day), while Massachusetts allows registration 20 days before Election Day.

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Request your absentee ballot.

If you’re registered to vote in your college town but you’ll be at home for the election, or vice versa, an absentee ballot is perfect for you.

The deadlines for receiving absentee ballots are different than the deadlines for registering to vote. These deadlines also vary depending on the state in which you reside. Furthermore, it’s important to read up on the eligibility requirements for applying for an absentee ballot in your state: there are seventeen states that require you to send in an excuse as to why you’re registering to vote via absentee ballot. If you’re registered to vote in Indiana, for instance, you must provide an excuse for absentee voting per the state’s guidelines, but if you’re registered to vote in Michigan you do not need to provide an excuse in order to apply for an absentee ballot.

Registering for an absentee ballot takes only two minutes. You simply fill out your personal information, including the address where you’re registered to vote and the address where you want your absentee ballot delivered, and then you will receive an email with your absentee form. Once you’ve printed, signed and dated your absentee form, you mail it to the address provided on the form. Make sure you correctly indicate which elections you would like to vote in on the form — there may be a primary or some other election in your state prior to the 2020 general election, so if you are planning on voting in those as well, be sure to also check off those boxes.

Be sure to fill out the entire form and return it ASAP in case any issues with the form arise.

Vote!

When you receive your absentee ballot, cast your vote and carefully follow all of the instructions on your ballot to ensure your vote is counted. Afterwards, mail your ballot back to the address, and you’re done! If you’re worried about your ballot not being received, it’s totally okay to contact the address where you mailed your ballot and double check that it was in fact received.

While voting by absentee ballot seems complicated, it’s actually a very easy process and a great way to exercise your right to vote while hardly ever leaving your couch. There are so many resources out there that detail how to register to vote and request your absentee ballot; if you have further questions that aren’t answered in either this guide or online, ask friends, family members, or even election officials in your state for assistance. They’ll be happy to help.