KEY POINTS

  • Providing an illegible signature can lead to a discarded ballot
  • Missing the deadline to submit ballots is another common way for votes to get rejected
  • Avoid tearing the ballot, too

Mail-in voting has been near the forefront of the election for some time now. President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized mail-in voting for being fraudulent, while experts argue that it’s a safe and reliable option amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a record number of mail-in ballots being requested, here's a look at key elements to keep in mind to ensure that your vote counts.  

Why are ballots rejected

Forgetting to sign, or even jotting down an illegible signature, will lead to discarded ballots, USA Today noted. Missing the deadline to submit ballots is another common way for votes to get rejected.

How to sign your ballot

It's imperative that all voters read the ballot instructions carefully. Make sure you use the right color ink (typically black or blue) and follow the instructions to choose your preferred candidate. Stray marks are forbidden on ballots so be careful when filling out. Avoid tearing the ballot, because if it's unreadable when returned the ballot can't be processed and will be discarded.

Make sure to sign the outside of the signature envelope if required. Some states verify your ballot by matching the signature from the voter registration form. Others use the signature on file with the government, such as the signature on a driver’s license.

Return ballots

Voters should also follow the directions for placing the ballot inside its envelope. Don't use a store-bought envelope. Use the envelope the state provides with the ballot.

Voters should also be aware of deadlines. Some states only count ballots that are received by Election Day. Other states will count ballots that arrive late if they're postmarked on or before Election Day. Only certain states will accept ballots after election day. 

Track Ballots

Tracking your ballot is incredibly important. In the majority of states, voters have access to a ballot-tracking system. On the portal, voters can see the status of the ballot.

Tracking ballots is important, because only 19 states have a process requiring election officials to notify voters if problems occur with their submission and offer an opportunity to fix them, according to Votingrightslab.org.