Mail-in ballots: Putting a voice onto paper

A step-by-step explanation of voting through mail


Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

November has crept in, and with it comes the voting season. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced most polls to shut down, so an alternative way to cast your voice is via the mail.

Most adults have opted to utilize the mail-in ballots as a precaution against the pandemic. As a matter of fact, 72% of adults in the U.S. wanted the mail-in ballots to be a requirement, according to the results of a Reuters poll, in order to protect the voters. Nevertheless, with the mail-in ballot comes the suspicion of voting fraud, some of which has been expressed by President Donald Trump himself.

In a tweet, Trump wrote, “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”

However, experts on the subject and the FBI have seen no evidence.

According to a report on NPR, “[National security officials] have not seen a coordinated fraud effort and [note] how difficult such an effort would be, considering the decentralized nature of U.S. elections.”

These speculations remain mere rumors, as mail-in ballots have been around since the 19th century and exist as a safe alternative for partaking in democracy. Mail-in ballots date back to the 1860’s — they have just never been utilized on such a large scale.

“It can definitely be intimidating, especially since this was my first time voting. Honestly, it was nothing to stress about, the ballot was easy to fill out,” alumna Loren Yona wrote to the Talon. “Just make sure to get a head start and send in the ballot early. Also, the signature on the ballot should match the one on your ID.”

Want to prepare for mail-in voting in the next election? The Talon has you covered:


Step one: Registering to vote

Olivia Dods

If you are freshly 18-years-old, just embarking on your voting journey or are a bit lost on the voting process, let us help you out. Your first step is to register as a voter, which you can do online. Then, you are all set and good to go — the mail-in ballot will soon arrive at your house and you can track the location through this nifty BallotTrax link.

However, if you end up arriving late to the voting party (as in, 15 days or less before the election), you will need to venture to your county elections office (see list of counties and locations here) or vote center/local polling place (available at Oak Park High School). There, you will be requested to fill out the voter registration form and given a ballot.

“Same Day Voter Registration, known as Conditional Voter Registration in state law, is a safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their voter registration information for an election,” according to information on the California Secretary of State website.


Step two: Filling out the ballot

Now, it may seem obvious to most, but this truly is the most important step. As per executive order, every Californian registered to vote will receive a mail-in-ballot. Once obtained, fill out the ballot according to your voting preferences. 

According to the order, “Whereas to preserve public health in the face of the threat of COVID-19, and to ensure that the November election is accessible, secure, and safe, all Californians must be empowered to vote by mail, from the safety of their own homes”


Step three: Mailing your ballot 

Now that you have filled out your ballot, it will soon be on its way. Insert this ballot into the provided envelope, checking to make sure all information is filled out. The next step is absolutely crucial: identify your county’s official election office, but beware of deadlines! This is not like the homework you procrastinate until the morning of. Your ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day, which happened to be on Nov. 3, 2020 this year.

Let’s say procrastination got the best of you, as it often can, and you waited until Election Day. Do not panic, you will find a list of alternative methods here. Return your ballot to a polling location, the office or your county’s official office, or drop your ballot into one of your county’s official drop boxes no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. 


Step four: Celebrate your active participation in our government!

Congratulations! You have officially exercised your right to vote. Being 18-years-old is like being in the big leagues adulting is no longer a concept of the future. This is your first freedom, and while it may be intimidating, mail-in voting makes it all the more accessible and convenient. Celebrate this landmark by staying informed on current events and encouraging your friends to vote as well.