News 12 sorts through mail-in ballot confusion after Postal Service mailer
Election Day will look different this year, as millions of Americans vote by mail. You may have been confused by a mailer that went out from the U.S. Postal Service, saying voters must request a mail-in ballot. But in the tri-state area, there’s a good chance that is simply wrong.
“In New Jersey, everyone's getting sent a ballot. In Connecticut, I believe that everyone's being sent an application,” says Jennifer Wilson, of the League of Women’s Voters. In the tri-state area, Wilson says it’s only New York voters who need to request applications to vote by mail. "We do have in New York state now an online portal to apply. So I think that makes us a little bit different than some of the other northeastern states where, yes, you have to apply. But you can do it online now in New York."
Once obtaining your mail-in ballot, voters should make sure to fill it out properly to ensure it counts. Each year, about 1% of mail-in ballots are rejected. Some of the reasons why are easy to avoid.
"So what is most common to get a ballot rejected is usually missing a signature, or most importantly, not returning your ballot on time,” says Audrey Kline, of the National Vote at Home Institute.
The institute says while it may seem obvious that voters must sign their name, it’s the No. 1 reason mail-in ballots get rejected. The signature must also match the one on file.
"We have a lot of people who call us who are seniors,” says Kline. "And they're like, 'I filled out my first application when I was 18 years old. And now I'm, I'm 90 and my signature looks nothing like that.’ What we've been telling them is resubmit your voter registration form with your new updated signature, and they'll update it in the poll book."
Be sure to follow directions. If the ballot says to fill in an oval, your vote could be disqualified if you write in a check mark or circle the candidate’s name. Though the rules are more relaxed in New York state - in some cases, the Board of Elections will reach out if there’s a ballot problem and give five days to fix it.
"I think all states should adopt a similar policy, I think it's ridiculous that marking outside of the line or using a pencil instead of a pen could cause your ballot to be invalidated,” says Kline.
And lastly - be sure to submit your ballot on time. Connecticut ballots must be received by election night. New York and New Jersey ballots must be postmarked by election night.
In all three states, voters can still cast their ballots in person if they so desire.
In New Jersey, in-person voting will be by provisional ballot. Election workers will check to see if a mail-in ballot was cast and will only count the ballot if one was not. New York takes the opposite approach. The in-person vote will take priority. Election officials will discard the mail-in ballot, assuming the voter changed their mind.