6 things voters need to know to make sure their vote counts - Our Count
Voter Justice

6 things voters need to know to make sure their vote counts

OurCount is a movement to make sure every Black person counts, every Black community counts, and every Black vote counts. If you plan on voting by mail this year, read on to learn more about how to protect your ability to vote safely in the upcoming election.

Voting from home is a safe and convenient way to cast a ballot, which is why millions of Americans have already voted by mail in this year’s general election. While new safety measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 means absentee voting is a little different this time around, changes in the voting process don’t have to trip us up. Read on to get the information you need to know to request your absentee ballot, vote safely, securely, and early in this election.

  1. Make sure you submit your application for an absentee ballot! If you live in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Hawai’i, and Vermont you should receive your ballot in the mail automatically. If you don’t live in one of those states, you have to submit an application to receive your ballot. Deadlines to request your ballot vary in every state, but there’s really no reason to wait. Request your ballot online today!
  2. As soon as you receive your ballot, read every instruction. Read them twice! This election is too important for your ballot to be thrown out for an avoidable mistake.
  3. Follow the instructions to successfully complete your ballot. Some states may require voters take an additional step to ensure their vote is counted. This may include having a witness or notary public certify the ballot, using a specific color of ink, placing your ballot in an additional secrecy envelope, or including a copy of your ID with the ballot.
  4. After your ballot is properly signed with the same signature you used when you registered and sealed according to your state’s rules, make sure you return it with enough time to be delivered by the deadline. Postmark deadlines are constantly changing across the country, so it’s best to return your ballot as soon as you complete it. The longer your ballot sits around the house, the more likely you are to lose or forget about it.
  5. As an alternative to returning your ballot by mail, completed absentee ballots can be dropped off in person at your local election official’s office or a secure, official ballot dropbox instead. Double-check to make sure the dropbox is owned and secured by local or state elections officials before putting your ballot inside. If you need help returning your ballot, some states allow close relatives or other third parties to turn in your ballot for you.
  6. Make sure to track your ballot. Most states allow you to go to your local election officials’ website to confirm your ballot arrived and make sure it’s counted. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to correct (or “cure”) your ballot if you made a mistake somewhere.

For voters who rely on in-person voting to provide the accommodations they need to cast your ballot, early voting will likely be the safest choice. Many states are limiting their in-person polling places because of COVID, which will lead to longer lines and crowds on Election Day. For the overwhelming majority of Black voters, voting in person on Election Day should be a last resort. If you need to vote in person, we urge you to plan on voting early. Find out when your state’s in-person early voting period begins. You might be able to vote today!