The 2020 general election is coming to an end with millions of Americans having already voted safely and securely from home. With changes to election laws and many people voting by mail for the first time this year, mistakes are bound to happen. But these errors don’t have to disqualify your vote. Whether you’ve already turned in your ballot, or are planning to mail it back as soon as possible, read on to learn how you can ensure your ballot is counted.
What kinds of mistakes can lead to my ballot being rejected? In some states, ballots can be rejected for missing required information or for not being returned properly. To make sure your vote is counted, return your ballot early! This will allow enough time for your local board of elections to review it for discrepancies and, if possible, send it back for you to correct before the deadline. Reasons for ballot rejections include:
- Missing or using voter signatures that don’t match official records
- Missing a witness signature or address
- Failing to place your ballot in a secrecy envelope when required
- Accidentally adding stray markings to your ballot.
How do I know if there’s a problem with my ballot? In 18 states—including California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Ohio—voters are automatically notified by the state of any discrepancies and given the opportunity to fix them. If there’s an issue with your ballot, election officials may contact you by mail, email, or phone alerting you to fix your ballot. If you don’t live in one of the states that automatically notify you about ballot concerns, you can track the status of your ballot to confirm that your ballot was received and counted.
Many states allow voters to “cure”, or fix, their ballots if they have been initially rejected. Contact your local board of elections to learn about the ballot curing process in your state and ask how you can check the status of your ballot. Resolving issues with your ballot may involve signing an affidavit confirming the ballot was in fact yours, presenting appropriate identification, voting on a replacement ballot, or correcting your signature.
How much time do I have to cure my ballot? That depends on where you live. Some states require all ballots be cured of deficiencies by Election Day. Other states allow ballot cures days after election night, so long as your ballot was initially received or postmarked by the appropriate deadline. Check with local election officials for information regarding your state’s ballot curing process.
How quickly will my vote be counted? Most states will not begin counting ballots until Election Day, November 3, 2020. Many states however, can begin pre-process ballots days or even weeks before election day, allowing officials time to inspect ballots and notify voters of any discrepancies. A number of states, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are legally required to wait until Election Day to begin ballot processing.
Because of the differences in election laws across the country, and the surge in mail-in ballots this year, it’s likely we will not know the results of this election for days, or even weeks after election night.