Mail-in voting is easy. Here’s why you should do it.

%22When+anyone+casts+their+ballot+in+a+normal+year%2C+they+are+fulfilling+their+civic+responsibility+as+an+American+citizen.+But+this+November%2C+for+the+first+time+in+a+long+time%2C+there+is+a+pandemic+plaguing+the+U.S.+during+a+presidential+election.%22+Illustration+by+Laura+King%0A

“When anyone casts their ballot in a normal year, they are fulfilling their civic responsibility as an American citizen. But this November, for the first time in a long time, there is a pandemic plaguing the U.S. during a presidential election.” Illustration by Laura King

What does it mean to vote? When anyone casts their ballot in a normal year, they are fulfilling their civic responsibility as an American citizen. But this November, for the first time in a long time, there is a pandemic plaguing the U.S. during a presidential election. 

Voters will cast their ballots in either one of two ways: in-person or by mail. Unfortunately, voting has become politicized. As a third time voter, I want to set the record straight to give this community the full breakdown of why you should vote during a pandemic.

The predominant way to vote is in-person at your local polling location. But due to COVID-19, there is an increased risk of spreading the virus by touching voting materials and interacting face-to-face with poll workers. According to April research from the Pew Research Center, roughly 58 percent of poll workers in the U.S. are 61 years old or older. And the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that the vast majority of COVID-related deaths in the U.S.—8 in 10, to be exact—were adults 65 and older.

If this isn’t enough to deter you from voting in-person, think about where you’ll be during election season. Since Emerson’s fall academic calendar does not end until Nov. 25, many Emerson students will not be able to physically go to a polling station in their hometown on Nov. 3. The most logical option then is to vote by mail.

It’s now easier than ever to vote without heading to the polls. But what does absentee and mail-in voting mean?

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An absentee ballot is used nationwide to allow voters who cannot, for various reasons, physically make it to a polling location on Election Day. These are oftentimes used by out-of-state college students, among other groups. A mail-in ballot is used more broadly to refer to ballots voluntarily sent through the mail, including in some states that vote entirely through mail. 

There is no one-size-fits-all law or regulation about vote-by-mail. In fact, the rules vary state by state, county by county, and city by city. In Massachusetts, registered voters must complete a paper application and send it into their local election office. If you live in Boston, you will send the application via mail to: Elections Department, 1 City Hall Square, Room 241, Boston, MA 02201, or you can drop it off at 1 City Hall Square.

In New York state, registered voters can complete the application online. In California, all registered voters will automatically receive a ballot in the mail, but it will be sent to the voters’ California addresses. If a California resident is anywhere but that address, they need to fill out a paper application and mail it to your county elections office, which is listed at the end of the document.

In Florida, each registered voter must access their Supervisor of Elections website and fill out the online application. Depending on where you’re from, voting-by-mail can be simple, and it can be because of the political party that has the majority in your state’s legislature.

If you’re voting by mail, make sure that you’re registered to vote first. You can do that by going to RockTheVote.org. Once that’s completed, simply Google search “[name of your county]  vote by mail application” and follow the steps to complete the application. Depending on when your application was submitted, you’ll receive your ballot to the address you specified around a month prior to the election. I recommend submitting your application early to ensure that your ballot has ample time to get to you, and you will have ample time to send it back to your County Election Official.

Voting-by-mail has been a passion project of mine for the past two years. I founded my own non-profit, AbsenteeBallotsNow, in 2018. And throughout that midterm election season, more than 40,000 users from all 50 states and five territories accessed my site as a tool for vote-by-mail information.

This election season, I’ve decided to take a more hands-on approach to help voters individually register to vote-by-mail. When a potential voter reaches out to ask us how they can register to vote via the AbsenteeBallotsNow site, Instagram, or Facebook, we provide them with all the vote-by-mail application information they’ll need.

Voting by mail is safe, secure, easy—and it’s made for every American. Don’t let a pandemic or partisan politics stop you from voting.