WASHINGTON — Millions of people are voting by mail in the 2020 election — many for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In order to ensure your ballot is counted, officials suggest mail-in ballots be sent in early, especially given USPS delays. Many states suggest sending your ballot at least one week before Election Day (that’s today) to make sure it arrives in time.
Most states require that your ballot be postmarked on Election Day, Nov. 3, but even if they’re postmarked in time, some will not accept those ballots if they arrive too late; the specific rules vary state by state. Here is the latest possible date in each state when absentee ballots will be accepted; these may not apply to voters overseas or in the military who are subject to special deadlines.
Two states, Utah and Louisiana, require that ballots be postmarked the day before Election Day. In Louisiana, all ballots must be received by 4:30 p.m. CST on Nov. 2 in order to be counted, though Utah will count ballots received through Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. MST as long as they are postmarked on Nov. However, voters in Utah can deliver their ballots in person to their local polling place on Nov. 3 before 8 p.m. MST.
One state, Ohio, requires that ballots be postmarked by Nov. 2, but they can arrive as late as the close of business on Nov. 13, 10 full days after Election Day, and still be counted.
Most states require mail-in ballots to be received by the time the polls close in the state on Election Day, usually 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. local time, but some allow ballots received after Election Day to be counted. Washington state, which votes entirely by mail, has the latest deadline, allowing ballots received through Nov. 23 to be counted.
For months leading up to Election Day, President Donald Trump has baselessly attacked mail-in voting, but the process is safe and secure: According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Oregon, another fully vote-by-mail state, has found fraud in just 0.00001% of all votes cast by mail since the year 2000.
There are pending legal fights over the absentee ballot deadlines in two battleground states — North Carolina and Pennsylvania. That means those dates could still change, although the closer it gets to Election Day, the less willing the justices will be to change the status quo, at least in theory.
Pennsylvania is currently accepting ballots through Nov. 6, after the state Supreme Court extended the deadline and the US Supreme Court voted 4–4 to leave that timeline intact. But state Republicans have gone back to the court in a last-ditch attempt to push the deadline back to Election Day, just as the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett as the court’s ninth justice.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, will only accept ballots received by Election Day, after the Supreme Court ruled 5–3 this week to block a lower court judge who ordered an extension.