Voting by Mail: My Experience in 2020

I’m 39 years old, and I’ve actively participated in elections and primaries for over 20 years. However, until this year, I’ve always voted in person.

During the last presidential election, however, I started thinking that I should explore the option of voting by mail. There are plenty of polling places in St. Louis, but I still waited in line early in the morning for 90 minutes to vote in 2016. Perhaps I’m overzealous with my time, and 90 minutes to participate in our democracy is a small price to pay, but surely there must be a better way.

Please keep in mind that I’m only speaking of my experience here. I know there are people who have waited a fraction of that time, and I know of people who have waited significantly longer. I also greatly admire and appreciate the poll workers who making voting in person possible.

If time were the only factor, I may have voted in person this year. But this is not an ordinary year. I live in the country with the highest reported cases of coronavirus in the world. Sharing the same air in a confined space with hundreds of people for 1-2 hours is no longer just an inconvenience–it’s dangerous. I wanted to be a part of the solution of reducing the crowds.

In some states, voting by mail is very easy. That’s not the case in Missouri, as we discovered this summer. You must apply for an absentee ballot, wait to receive it, fill it out (ensuring that my signature matches the one on file with the state), have it notarized, then mail it.

We’ve now completed all of those steps, and while the notary aspect was slightly annoying, we had a nice stroll to the nearest location. We dropped off the ballots in a secure public mailbox a full month before election day, which should hopefully help the poll workers who are busy working on counting the ballots. We even have a tracking receipt–I just looked it up online, and my ballot was successfully received.

Overall, despite the hurdles, a very good experience. However, there was one element that made me realize I should have been doing this for years, something I think elevates voting by mail well above voting in person: Extra time to be properly informed.

If you’re like me (and hopefully you’re not), when you get to the voting booth, you know a few people you’ll vote for, perhaps along party lines. But then you get to the section of the ballot with judges, sheriffs, comptrollers, propositions, and amendments…and you have no idea. You can and should research these options in advance, but do you? I must admit I haven’t in the past.

By having the ballot in front of me at my computer with absolutely no urgency, however, I had time to research every single option on the ballot and make an informed decision. This was particularly important for one of the amendments that was sneakily worded–if I had voted in person, I would have accidentally voted for the option that contradicted my principles and beliefs.

I’m just sharing my experience today–I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I will say, however, that it felt just as real and secure as completing a ballot in person, it was far more efficient for me, it was far safer during an airborne pandemic than joining a crowd on November 3, and it enabled me to perform proper due diligence for every option on the ballot. I will absolutely do it again in the future.

Have you ever voted by mail? What was your experience?

7 thoughts on “Voting by Mail: My Experience in 2020”

  1. Thanks for doing this,

    Would you mind sharing what amendments you felt was not properly worded? Of course, no need to mention what you ended up voting or what where the possible options. I am curious and hoping it may warn others

    • Amendment 3. I think this is the wording on the ballot:

      “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees; Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits; Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by: (i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.”

      • Wow! I totally see why you needed research. On a quick look I find contradictory things so I would not know how to vote without doing the research. Thanks!

        (I don’t live in MI so that aspect does not apply, but great information to know)

  2. ABSOLUTELY! I live in WA state and have voted by mail I think my entire time here 25 years? It is wonderful. You get a booklet even, that has a fair amount of research in it, I rarely need to do more than the book. In the past few cycles, they have even paid postage on the ballot, and no notary needed. You can mail the ballot or drop it in multiple locations.

    We have had very little fraud. Yes, there is possibility, or people might get upset about a spouse filling out both, but we often did that as a house, we trusted each other, so hey could you do my ballot, and of course we reviewed them and signed our own, nothing illegal, just spousal division of labor.

    We have it pretty good out here. The minus is political monoculture, but that is a whole other topic. I do have to say WA state on the whole is not very corrupt and is run pretty well. I compare it to NY where I spent the most of the rest of my life, and hands down WA is “cleaner” and cleaner. I bring this up, in that I have trust in our election process here, but can see how mail in could be problematic in other areas of the country.

    Unless there is some stunning hidden evidence, doubtful, the process works extremely well here. I do worry about logistics from places who are not used to it. BUT also to me, the BIG thing is a paper ballot. The voting machines w no ballot made me very uneasy.

  3. When I lived in WA, they were in the process of transitioning to everyone voting by mail. At first I missed going to actual polling places but learned to love the no lines to vote. In AZ, you could put yourself on a permanent vote to mail which I did. I was very thankful especially in 2016 when people waited in line for hours to vote. In both states, I always dropped my ballot off in a secured ballot box to make sure it arrived on time. Now that I’m in TN, they are not accepting COVID as an acceptable reason to vote by mail. They do have early voting available to all so that is what I will be doing ( and it’s available on saturdays too). I do miss having the voter guide and computer right next to me to look up everything before making a choice but just means I need to look up a sample ballot before I go.

  4. Yes, voting by mail is very efficient during normal elections. Many of my friends dropped theirs off to prevent delays.

    As I am abroad, and you know for whom I voted, I had to fax it back. My party even called me as this election had even more significance.

    As far as fraud, being a woman of color, I need to emphasize that although there was no voter fraud, this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any. Voter suppression was present and that is election fraud.

    We need more uniformity in voter registration laws including id requirements.

    I waited to respond as the blatantly unnecessary certifications were being finished and our new POTUS announced his cabinet picks.


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