With the clock ticking down and Election Day looming, many Massachusetts voters have already voted early in person or shipped off their ballots to be counted. But some voters are still getting the hang of this newly expanded mail-in voting system.
We’re here to help. Earlier this month, we answered some of the top questions about mail-in voting in Massachusetts and asked readers to submit any lingering questions. Here’s what you asked:
I requested a mail-in ballot. When will I receive it? Can I request a second mail-in ballot if the first one got lost in the mail before it got to me?
The United States Postal Service recommends allowing up to seven days for ballot delivery, according to Deb O’Malley, a spokesperson for Secretary of State William Galvin. Voters can track their ballots online at TrackMyBallotMA.com, and if they see their ballot was mailed more than a week prior, they should contact their local election office to request a new ballot be mailed, O’Malley said.
“Alternatively, voters may still vote in person if they have not returned a mail-in ballot, and that would include voters who haven’t yet received their ballots,” she added.
Find your local election office on the Secretary of State’s list at https://tinyurl.com/yazda9rk.
I received a ballot, but I don’t believe I requested one. Do I need to fill it out?
No. If you don’t mail back your ballot, you can still vote in person on Election Day or during early voting hours. You can also vote in person if your ballot never reaches your local election office, or if it’s rejected (you can check the status online at TrackMyBallotMA.com). However, once your completed ballot makes it back to election officials and is submitted for counting, you have voted and you can’t vote again.
If I vote in person after mailing my ballot but before the clerk receives my ballot, will they know not to count my vote twice?
Yes. Election officials check mail-in ballots against voter lists at polling places to make sure voters only cast their ballot once. If your local election office receives your ballot by mail after you have voted in person, they will reject your mail-in ballot.
I’m missing part of my mail-in ballot package (the pre-addressed exterior envelope, the inner envelope with the affidavit or the ballot itself). What do I do?
“If there are any issues at all with a ballot package, the voter should contact their local election office immediately to receive a replacement,” O’Malley said. “And they always have the option of voting in person if they haven’t already returned a ballot.”
Will they compare the signature on my mail-in ballot to my previous signatures on file at, say, the RMV?
In Massachusetts, election officials compare the signature on the mail-in ballot affidavit (the inner envelope you sign when returning your ballot) to the signature on your mail-in ballot application, according to Massachusetts General Laws.
Can I drop off my ballot at the post office?
Yes. If you’re mailing your ballot, you just need to ensure it is postmarked by Nov. 3 in order to be counted (your local election office needs to receive it by Nov. 6). According to the United States Postal Service, mail dropped off in a collection box or at a service counter is postmarked. USPS also postmarks all mailed ballots, regardless of whether they are prepaid or stamped.
However, the Postal Service cautions voters to be mindful of collection times when dropping off mail — if you drop your ballot in a mailbox after the collection time, it won’t be picked up or postmarked until the next day.
I have filled out my ballot and mailed it but forgot to answer one of the ballot questions. Does my ballot still count or will it be rejected?
Yes, your ballot still counts. Just as with in-person voting, you can choose which races or ballot questions to vote on — if you forget to fill in the bubble or deliberately avoid it, your vote for that office or question will be tallied as a blank.
I received my mail-in ballot but decided to vote in person. What do I do with my mail ballot?
“We encourage voters to bring in their unused ballots to turn it [in] when they do vote in person, but it isn’t required. If they still have a ballot they don’t need, they can rip it up,” O’Malley said.
And a reminder…
You have until Oct. 28 to request a mail ballot. Your ballot will be counted if it is postmarked by Nov. 3 and your local election office receives it by Nov. 6. Ballots received by Election Day do not require a postmark to be counted.
You can return your ballot by mail or in person at your local election office, in an official ballot return box or at any early voting location during early voting hours, according to the Secretary of State’s website.