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What Is Absentee Versus Mail-In Voting? And Will My Ballot Be Counted? We Have Answers

In honor of Election Day on November 3, we’re taking it back to the basics in an attempt to clear the air about what it really means to cast a vote by mail. Here’s what you need to know. 

1. What’s the difference between “absentee voting” and “mail-in voting”?

There really isn’t one because both terms refer to the act of voting by mail. However, the verbiage depends on each state, which can make its own rules and regulations for elections. Since the process varies by location, some areas call it “absentee” while others use “mail-in voting.”

Both phrases are derived from the concept of “absentee ballots,” which are sent to peoples’ homes, versus a polling place. It originated as a way to allow “absent” voters to participate. All you need to do is request a ballot and cast your vote through the mail prior to Election Day.

While “absentee voting” is still used in some states, others refer to it as “mail-in voting.” For these areas, ballots are sent via mail to every single resident, regardless of whether or not they requested one.

2. What happens when I mail my ballot?

No matter the term, the general process is the same once the ballot is received by the voter. All entries are verified before getting logged by the state. A specific postmark date for a returned ballot is set (and strict), so be sure to get yours in on time.

3. How do I know where/how to vote?

To find your polling place or obtain information about getting a ballot, head to the government’s official voting website. After answering a series of questions about your location, you’ll be directed to your state’s official election site for specifics.

4. Will my mail-in ballot be counted?

Despite recent controversy, the answer is yes. The USPS originally warned that internal adjustments might affect its ability to process incoming ballots. However, the postal service recently announced that it’s suspending the changes until after the election to ensure mail-in ballots are counted on time.

5. What other terms are used for mail-in ballots?

In addition to “absentee” and “mail-in,” other variations include “advanced ballots,” “mailed ballots,” “vote-by-mail ballots” and “mail ballots.”

Way to make things unnecessarily confusing.

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