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Voting absentee or by mail? How to track your ballot from start to finish

If you’re like most Americans, you’re seriously considering voting by absentee ballot...

...instead of at the polling place in this year's primary and mid-term elections, if you haven’t already done so. Absentee voting, whether you live stateside or are one of millions of overseas voters, offers you the convenience of selecting candidates for office at the time of your choosing: after work, around the table with your family, or from your couch.

No need to wait in line, and no time limits (as you might experience on Election Day or during early voting) as long as you mail in or place your voted ballot in a drop box by the deadline. Every state now offers absentee voting, with the majority permitting you to vote absentee without an excuse as to why you can’t physically make it to the polls.

Once you’ve decided to vote absentee, here's how to track your ballot every step of the way.

How Ranked Choice Voting Gives Voters More Choices

Every election cycle offers more reminders of the problems with our “first-past-the-post” voting method.


In this spring’s primaries, we’ve seen numerous candidates nominated with a third of the vote or less – meaning two-thirds of primary voters chose someone else. We’ve seen candidates strategically drop out of races, fearing that they’d split votes with ideologically similar competitors and inadvertently help less preferable candidates if they stay in the contest. At the same time, we’ve seen plenty of sleepy, one-candidate, low-turnout “contests” across the country.

Voters are either getting no choice at all, or so many choices that voting becomes a game of 3D chess. Our current system leaves us frustrated, feeling like our voices are not heard.

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is a solution to these problems (and a few others). It does a better job of achieving the goals and ideals of democratic elections – it gives voters more choice and more voice, and results in fairer outcomes.

Can I Change My Mind as an Absentee Voter?

Absentee voting provides ease and convenience for domestic and overseas voters alike.

  • Indeed, many registered voters, particularly since the pandemic, have opted for this method. A mail-in or absentee ballot allows you to vote at your leisure: You can fill out a mail ballot from the comfort of your home, and avoid lines during the early voting period or on Election Day.

  • States offering no-excuse absentee voting, moreover, offer it during both general elections and primary elections. And in many states, there’s still time to request a ballot, using an application form or federal post card application (FPCA) (for overseas citizens) through your local clerk’s office. Once completed, too, you can either mail it back, drop it off at a drop box, or return it in person to the county clerk, with some states permitting caregivers or family members to take it in for you.

  • That said, sometimes voters change their minds before the day of the election and decide they’d rather vote in person, even after having requested an absentee ballot. That shouldn’t become a barrier to voting. You may need a little help figuring out what to do. And each state has a different rule on the issue, so when in doubt consult your secretary of state’s rules. Below is a guide to voting in-person if you’ve changed your mind about that absentee or mail-in ballot.


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Press Releases

U.S. Vote Foundation Releases 2020 Election Day Voter Experience Study and Policy Perspective

Voters’ High Satisfaction with their Voting Experience Contrasts Sharply with their Sentiments about Election Integrity and the US Electoral System

February 23, 2021, WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and Overseas Vote published two documents: 1) the 2020 Election Day Voter Experience Study (the Study); and 2) a Policy Perspective: Reflections on the US Vote 2020 Election Day Voter Experience Study and the For The People Act.

The Study’s results – based on a survey of 15,495 voters – showcase the overwhelming success of the overall election process and the reforms of 2020 that were implemented as a result of the pandemic. That success, which led to the highest voter turnout in modern times, took place despite the myriad obstacles voters faced in the primaries and the General Election.

The resulting turnout and positive voter sentiment captured by the Study highlight the need to solidify these reforms as permanent and to continue the non-partisan efforts of US Vote to expand voter access.

Voters in 21 States Can Register and Vote on Election Day

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Local and State Media to Broadcast Election Day Registration and Voting Option

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 2, 2020 – U.S. Vote Foundation today released a comprehensive list of the 21 states where unregistered voters can still exercise their right to vote in tomorrow’s election. This includes swing states and others where close Senate and state races are underway. An estimated 13 million unregistered voters live in these states where on-site registration is available, and their participation could change the dynamic of the election.

Unregistered voters in eligible states can go to their polling place, clerk’s office, or other site designated by election officials to both register and vote on Election Day. Consult US Vote’s Election Day Registration and Voting chart for details.

View Your State Voting Requirements & Election Deadlines