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Mail-In Ballots Should Be Delivered In-Person This Close to Election, Experts Say

By Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue | October 29, 2020

Less than a week before Election Day, experts and election officials in many states are warning voters that it’s now too late to submit absentee ballots by mail. State rules vary regarding how late ballots can be received, but NPR reported that more than two dozen states require absentee ballots to be received on Election Day to be counted. Swing states Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin all have this requirement, and time is short for the postal service to make those deliveries.

"Voters who have not mailed the ballot as of this date should not mail their ballots and should find another means to vote," David Fineman, chair of the nonpartisan Fair Elections Center and a former chair of the Postal Service board of governors, told NPR on Wednesday, October 28.

Voters can still return their ballots via official drop box or to their local election clerk, but how that happens exactly depends on local laws. According to NPR, some voters who hope to vote in person instead should bring a blank absentee ballot to the polls where they may be able to complete the absentee ballot, cast a ballot in a traditional voting booth or fill out a provisional ballot, based on local guidelines. For others, official ballot drop boxes are the way to go.

"We are too close to Election Day, and the right to vote is too important, to rely on the postal service to deliver absentee ballots on time," wrote Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson in an October 27 statement. "Citizens who already have an absentee ballot should sign the back of the envelope and hand deliver it to their city or township clerk's office or ballot drop box as soon as possible."

The postal service recommends anyone hoping to mail their ballot do so “at least one week prior to your state deadlines.” Voters can check their state requirements at the National Conference of State Legislatures website. Still, according to PolitiFact, David Becker, executive director at the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research, has warned about the potential for late-stage litigation that could change state requirements at the last minute.

The Supreme Court recently rejected Wisconsin’s ballot deadline extension, which would allow mailed ballots received six days after Election Day to count as long as they were postmarked by November 3. Now, Wisconsin ballots must be received on November 3 by 8:00 p.m. With varied legal results, lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and North Carolina have also challenged mail-in ballot deadlines for counting.

Delays with postal service delivery have added to anxiety ahead of the election, especially as voters have planned to use absentee ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the most recent data released by the USPS, only 85.58% of first-class mail was delivered on time for the week of October 10-16 throughout the country. PolitiFact notes this is the 14th consecutive week that the rate remained under 90%.

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