A Guide to Mail-In Voting and How it Could Affect the Election


Josie O'Toole

The United States Postal Service is a crucial part of America’s elections this year.

Zoe Zdraveski, Contributing Writer

This year, more Americans have the opportunity to vote by mail than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post estimates that at least 83% of American citizens are eligible for mail-in voting this fall, and accordingly, millions of Americans plan to cast their ballots via the envelope. Between President Trump’s many false claims about the possible consequences of mail-in voting, his admission to defunding the postal service in order to slow down the process of mail-in voting, and the varying regulations governing it in each state, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What is the reality of the effects of mail-in voting, and what does this process look like in Massachusetts?

 First off, let’s do some myth-busting. During the first Presidential Debate on September 29th, and on numerous occasions on his social media, Trump has launched into attacks on mail-in voting, spewing ample falsehoods and insisting that, “these ballots are going to be all over” and, “this is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.” The claims about widespread voter fraud are utterly untrue. Many independently conducted studies and a review by the U.S Department of Justice found essentially no evidence of widespread or organized fraud in an attempt to skew the federal election results. Minor lapses in the enforcement of voter registration laws do occur almost every election cycle, but these isolated incidents occur on a small scale and there is no evidence of an increase in their occurrence in states that use mail-in voting. 

Minor lapses in the enforcement of voter registration laws do occur almost every election cycle, but these isolated incidents occur on a small scale and there is no evidence of an increase in their occurrence in states that use mail-in voting. ”

As for the Trump administration’s claims that mail-in voting is some sort of attempt to give an advantage to the Democratic party, the Academy of Sciences of the United States of America conducted a study looking at data from states that implemented mail-in elections from 1996 to 2018 and found no benefit in terms of voter turnout or vote share for either political party. Trump has also sought to draw a distinction between mail-in voting and absentee ballots, yet there is no meaningful difference between them. These terms are often used interchangeably, and they are both paper ballots hand marked by the voter, which has been determined by the National Conference of State Legislators as an entirely secure form of voting. Over forty states have protocols of signature verification for mail-in ballots to further ensure election security. Steve Simon, Minnesota’s Democratic Secretary of State stated, “Today, our biggest looming challenge is the growth of misinformation to get people to question the sanctity of the very reliable process we’ve built in Michigan.” The misinformation being perpetrated about mail-in ballots is the biggest obstacle in increasing voter turnout in this election.

Though many of the sound-bytes perpetuated by the Trump administration and conservative media regarding mail-in voting have no basis in reality, the struggling Postal Service has warned that possible delays are very much a real threat, a concerning fact considering many states don’t accept ballots that arrive after election day. This is all the more reason to ensure that if you are eligible to vote this election, and you are choosing to vote by mail, that your ballot hits the mailbox as soon as possible to ensure that it is counted.

 Massachusetts has mailed a vote-by-mail application to every voter, and the deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Massachusetts is 5:00 PM on October 28th. You must ensure your ballot is postmarked by Tuesday, November 3rd and received no later than that Friday, November 6th. Use black ink if you can; it’s easiest for the tabulating machines to read. 

Given how close we are to election day, the option to most confidently ensure that your vote will count is to vote in person if you have not yet requested a mail-in ballot. If you are running short on time, or are concerned that your ballot may not reach its destination in time, you can deliver your mail-in ballot to a physical polling place. If your local election office has not validated your mail-in ballot by the third, you can still vote in person! To confirm that your mail-in ballot was accepted, go to www.TrackMyBallotMA.Com. Happy Voting!