11 Ways to Avoid Getting Your Vote-by-Mail Ballot Rejected
Are you voting by mail for the first time this year? It's the safest way to go as far as viruses go, but it's a whole new experience, with some possible problems along the way. Here's some advice to help you avoid invalidating your precious vote.
1. Sign the envelope before you send it
Ballots in envelopes with no signature are automatically rejected. It happens hundreds of times in every election.
Look at the back of the envelope (where you will seal it). Be sure to:
2. Fill in your Ballot using only BLUE or BLACK ink
Black or Blue. It says so right in the instructions on the ballot. Believe them, it matters.
Ink Pen, not markers or highlighters.
Fill in the entire oval.
No X’s or √'s
Oh, and NO red ink.
Don’t lose your vote over the wrong pen!
BTW, if you make a mistake, you can get a new ballot. Anytime on or before Tue Oct 27 2020, go online and request a replacement ballot.
3. Put your return envelope in a Ballot Collection Box BEFORE 8:00pm on Tuesday, November 3rd
You do not have to MAIL your mail-in ballot!
There are official Ballot Collection Boxes (Drop Boxes) all over Santa Clara County, and you can drop your ballot off in any of them. (Find them HERE) 24 hours a day starting Oct 5th. BTW, there are three in Cupertino and six in Sunnyvale.
Ballot Boxes are already open 24/7. However, they will be emptied for the last time at 8:00 pm on November 3rd 2020, the same time the polls close. Any ballot dropped in after that will not be counted.
VOTE EARLY! DROP OFF YOUR BALLOT EARLY!
4. Match how you sign the envelope to the
signature on file with your voter registration
Your signature on the envelope will be checked against the one in your registration file. It's got to be close. Two things to check:
5. Put your ballot in the right envelope
First - Only use the special return envelope that came with your ballot. No other envelope will be accepted.
Second - If you live alone, and you use the envelope provided, ignore the following . . .
BUT, if there's more than one voter in your home, everyone needs to know this:
6. Never have anyone else sign the envelope
that your ballot went into
Yes, people have done this. Don't.
First, it’s against the law for someone else to sign your ballot. You must sign, in your own handwritting. (see #4 above)
Second, their signature will never match the one on file for you (see #4 again).
7. Mail your Ballot well before Friday, October 30th
Using the US Mail to send your ballot is convenient. You can be anywhere in the country and send your ballot by mail.
But if you're going to mail it, you need to send it early enough. It has to be postmarked by 11/3/2020, and received within 17 days (by 11/20/2020)
Remember this: Postmarks are not instant. The postmark is not applied at the post box and may not even be applied in the same ZIP code. Usually it's grouped and sent to a Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) where the postmark is applied.
As an example, let's say the pickup time, listed on the card at your neighborhood mailbox, is 3pm weekdays.
VOTE EARLY! MAIL EARLY!
8. Don't send in an empty envelope
Yes, it happens. But there’s an easy way to check if your ballot is in the envelope before you make this mistake and lose your vote.
There’s a pair of holes in the back of the envelope. they're on either side of where you sign.
They are there so you can check that your ballot is in the envelope as you sign and before you seal it.
Check the holes.
9. Put only one ballot in an envelope
If you live alone, this error probably won't happen to you.
BUT, if there's more than one voter in your home, sheets of pages from other people's ballots can accidentally get mixed up. Sheet B of my ballot may end up in your envelope, and the reverse. That can invalidate both our ballots!
Do this, just to be safe:
10.Write the Date that you put the Ballot into
the envelope on the outside of the envelope
I know it seems stupid to require you to write the date on the envelope. Isn't that what the postmark's for?
But up to 30% of mailed ballots received from the U.S. postal service have post marks that are either missing or unreadable. So the date you write down could be the only proof that you voted on time.
Write the date as
below your signature on the return envelope.
11. After you send your ballot, check your
U.S. mailbox daily through November
If any of the previous 10 problems (or others) happen, you will get a letter (yes, a real, in the US mail, aka snail-mail, PAPER LETTER) from the County Registrar of Voters, telling you:
So, after you send off your mail-in ballot:
While mail-in ballots can't be counted until election night, they can be checked for errors starting a week before, so you could be contacted before election night if, for instance, there's no signature on your envelope.
Since county elections officials are required by law to turn in the results of the ballot count by the 31st day after the election, all rejections must be resolved before December 4th.
Many thanks to the excellent article by John Wildermuth in the San Francisco Chronicle, and the study by the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, which inspired this article. Any errors here contained are purely my own: Marilyn Sherry, League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale, California, October, 2020.