How does voting by mail work?

Sep 29, 2020, 9:21 AM

Image of a person voting by mail in Utah. After a Utah lawmaker suggested that voters should have t...

FILE- A employee at the Utah County Election office puts mail in ballots into a container to register the vote in the midterm elections on November 6, 2018 in Provo, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images)

(George Frey/Getty Images)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more Americans than ever before will be voting by mail. For the 2020 election, a record 76% of US voters will be eligible to receive a ballot in the mail. 

In Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, all elections are done by mail only. Due to COVID-19, California is mailing ballots to every eligible voter. Also, New Jersey, Vermont, Nevada and the District of Columbia — which don’t typically mail ballots — are mailing ballots to every registered or eligible voter this year because of the pandemic.

Utah: voting by mail is routine

The state of Utah mails a ballot to every active registered voter a few weeks before the election. If you are unsure if you are registered to vote in Utah, find out here.

State county clerks will mail ballots between Oct. 13 and Oct. 27.

In Utah, voters must postmark mail-in ballots by Nov. 2, the day before Election Day. Voters can also drop their ballots off at a drop box before 8 p.m. on Election Day. Click here to find a drop box.

Utahns registered to vote before Friday, Oct. 23 should expect to receive a ballot at their designated mailing address.

Verifying ballots

Ballots are tied to a person using unique barcodes that allow voters to track their ballot after being mailed — like a package shipped to a destination. The barcode also makes it difficult to print fraudulent ballots without being detected.

 Almost every state requires voters to sign the ballot-return envelope; election workers crosscheck the signature in the voter-registration database. Ballots cannot be counted if the return envelope is not signed.

Unique details such as a birthdate and Social Security number help to confirm that someone is a real person.

If problems arise with voter information, such as a signature, election officials contact the voter to investigate.

Voting by mail dates to the middle of the 19th century when another national crisis — the Civil War — prevented voters from casting their ballots at polling places.

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How does voting by mail work?