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Calling for Democracy; Your Guide to Talking to Friends and Family About Voting Trump Out in 2020, Part Four: Helping Them Vote Early, Absentee, Via Dropbox, Hand-Carrying Their Ballot to the Right Office, Etc.

Calling for Democracy; Your Guide to Talking to Friends and Family About Voting Trump Out in 2020, Part Four: Helping Them Vote Early, Absentee, Via Dropbox, Hand-Carrying Their Ballot to the Right Office, Etc.

We at OTYCD released the full Calling for Democracy post earlier this week. We promised to break it into more manageable chunks. This is one of several.

Successful calling for democracy involves several steps, and might involve more than one follow-up to ensure that your friends and family carry through and vote for Joe Biden and the Democrats.

You’ll want to have the following tools at hand:

The website for I Will Vote:

iwillvote.com

FiveThirtyEight’s guide to How to Vote in the 2020 Election:

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/how-to-vote-2020/

The phone number for I Will Vote’s hotline:

833.336.8683.

…and a document of some sort–maybe it’s digital, maybe it’s paper–you’ll use to track your efforts. It should include columns that clearly label:

Who you contacted;

When you contacted them (the day, date, and maybe the time);

The results of the call;

Whether and if you need to call them again after finding an answer to a question or solving a problem they have.

This document should reflect the fact that you need to check in with everyone again in late October, on Election Day Eve, and maybe Election Day itself to make sure they followed through with their voting plans and haven’t hit any obstacles.

Let us stress this fact: If the person has a question you can’t answer, or some other issue arises that you’re not sure how to resolve, STOP and call the I Will Vote hotline for help (833.336.8683). Do! Not! Guess! If you’re not completely sure about how to proceed, CALL AND CHECK.

Once you’ve squared away registering them to vote, you should move on to the question of how they prefer to vote.

Before you ask them this question, look up the person’s home state or territory in the FiveThirtyEight guide to see what their options are. For example, many but not all offer some form of early voting. You should know if that’s possible before you suggest it.

You should see if the state or territory’s entry on the FiveThirtyEight guide includes a What We’re Watching section, in case something’s lurking there that the prospective voter should know about.

Say something like: “How would you like to cast your ballot? Do you want to vote at the polls in person on November 3, 2020, or do you want to vote early, or by absentee ballot?”

FWIW, we at OTYCD favor requesting an absentee ballot, filling it out at home, and hand-delivering it to the relevant government office, be it a county board, City Hall, etc. Hand-delivering sidesteps the possible delays that mailing the ballot might pose.

If they want to vote early, have them go to the I Will Vote page and click the Vote In Person option. It includes information on early voting.

If they want to vote by absentee ballot, two steps are required: requesting the ballot, and submitting the ballot.

The FiveThirtyEight guide lists the relevant details for each state and territory, including:

Deadlines for applying for an absentee ballot;

Whether or not the voter needs to include a photocopy of a photo I.D. with the absentee ballot;

Whether or not the voter needs at least one witness when signing the absentee ballot;

If the voter must cite an excuse for voting absentee, and if COVID-19 counts as an acceptable excuse;

Whether or not the voter’s state or territory is among those automatically mailing ballots to everyone who’s registered;

Deadlines for submitting an absentee ballot.

Alternately, you can assist the person in filling out the absentee ballot option on I Will Vote by sending them the link and talking them through the process, if need be.

IMPORTANT: When requesting an absentee ballot, you CANNOT fill in the information on their behalf. They must enter the data themselves. (Some states and territories make exceptions that allow immediate family members to do this for other immediate family members. Again, if you hit a snag, call the I Will Vote hotline: 833.336.8683.)

Once they receive their absentee ballot, offer to talk them through filling it out and returning it.

Here’s a checklist for completing and preparing a ballot:

Has the person read and understood the instructions that came with the ballot? (If they have any questions about the instructions, call the I Will Vote hotline: 833.336.8683.)

Do the ballot instructions specify the color of ink that must be used? (If they do, it’s either blue or black.) Does the person have at least two fresh pens filled with the same traditional color of ink? (In other words, do they have two new blue pens, OR two new black pens?) If not, can you send them pens or help them purchase acceptable pens?

Has the person filled in or otherwise addressed every section or area of the ballot that should be marked? <Is the Joe Biden bubble correctly marked? Are the bubbles for other down-ballot Democratic candidates marked?>

Do they need to include a photocopy of a photo ID with their ballot? <If they do, and they haven’t yet photocopied their photo ID, stop the process and help them get this document. You might need to go to a Staples or a public library and pay to have a photocopy made. DO NOT seal the ballot until the photocopy is tucked into the envelope.>

Do they need a witness for their signature? <If they do, and you can serve as a witness, please make the offer and agree on a time for you to swing by. If you can’t step in, help the person brainstorm a list of potential witnesses. DO NOT seal the ballot until the witness has seen the person sign it in all areas where it needs to be signed.>

Does the outer envelope require a signature? <Figure this out before the witness shows up, so they don’t leave before the job is done!>

Have they signed every area of the ballot that demands a signature? <Again, make sure to identify all places that call for signatures and get them done in the same sitting.>

Do they need to apply postage to their ballot? If so, how much postage? (A first-class stamp, which costs 55 cents, should suffice. If they don’t have stamps, offer to give them one or reimburse them for it.)

IMPORTANT: It’s crucial that the person signs the ballot everywhere that a signature is required. (Below, we repeat the detailed checklist for what to do before sealing the ballot envelope.) A missed signature can invalidate a ballot.

IMPORTANT: The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently changed its policy to forbid mail carriers from witnessing ballot signatures. The person’s short list of potential ballot witnesses should not include whomever delivers their mail.

…AND A SPECIALTY TOOL, JUST FOR THIS SECTION: If the person needs a notary to serve as a witness, use the National Notary Association search engine:

https://www.nationalnotary.org/resources-for/public/find-a-notary

COVID-19 restrictions makes signature-witnessing a tad more difficult than in a normal election year.

If the witness can see the person sign the ballot, everything’s good.

That means it’s OK for the witness to watch the voter through a window or a sliding glass door as they sign their ballot.

Submitting the ballot will be the more fraught action of the two.

If the person wants to mail it back (Snopes states that postage stamps are not generally required on ballots, but certain counties do demand some measure of postage. If there’s any question, go ahead and put a 55-cent stamp on the envelope, or call the I Will Vote hotline for advice: 833.336.8683), it must enter the mail stream early enough for it to arrive on time.

The meaning of “early enough” will vary for each state and territory, but earlier is better, and earliest is best. Those who intend to mail their ballots should complete and return them as soon as possible (ASAP).

Some states and territories offer dedicated drop boxes for ballots.

Hand-carrying the ballot to the relevant city or town office works, too.

If the person needs a ride to the drop box or their relevant municipal office and you’re able to drive them there, make the offer.

If they ask you to hand-deliver their ballot to a drop box or their relevant municipal office, things get hairier. Depending on where the person lives, it may be illegal for you to do this on their behalf.

In many places, it’s also OK for a voter to deliver their completed ballot to their local polling location on Election Day.

If you have any doubts about whether you’re allowed to deliver a ballot on behalf of someone else, call the I Will Vote hotline and ask (833.336.8683).

Neither the FiveThirtyEight guide or the I Will Vote site appears to give an option for finding drop boxes or finding out where, exactly, to hand-deliver a ballot.

You can call the I Will Vote hotline for help (833.336.8683), or you can try hunting down the information to spare your friend or family member the trouble.

You can try the Find My State or Local Election Office search engine at usa.gov:

https://www.usa.gov/election-office

If you know the city and state or town and state where they live, you could search for the city or town’s official government web site.

Look for an Election Department, a Board of Elections, an Elections Commission, a Registrar of Voters, an Elections Administrator or supervisor. Email or call the number listed for the relevant entity, and ask where and when to hand-deliver a ballot.

Remind the person to check their ballot carefully before sealing it inside its envelope.

Again, here’s the checklist:

Has the person read and understood the instructions that came with the ballot? (If they have any questions about the instructions, call the I Will Vote hotline: 833.336.8683.)

Do the ballot instructions specify the color of ink that must be used? (If they do, it’s either blue or black.) Does the person have at least two fresh pens filled with the same traditional color of ink? (In other words, do they have two new blue pens, OR two new black pens?) If not, can you send them pens or help them purchase acceptable pens?

Has the person filled in or otherwise addressed every section or area of the ballot that must be marked?

Do they need to include a photocopy of a photo ID with their ballot? <If they do, and they haven’t yet photocopied their photo ID, stop the process and help them get this document. DO NOT seal the ballot until the photocopy is tucked into the envelope.>

Do they need a witness for their signature? <If they do, and you can serve as a witness, please make the offer and hammer out a time to swing by. If you can’t, help the person brainstorm a list of potential witnesses. DO NOT seal the ballot until the witness can see the person sign it.>

Does the outer envelope require a signature? <Figure this out before the witness shows up, so they don’t leave before the job is done!>

Have they signed every area of the ballot that demands a signature?

Do they need to apply postage to their ballot? If so, how much postage? (A first-class stamp, which costs 55 cents, should suffice. If they don’t have stamps and need them, offer to give them the stamp or reimburse them for it.)

If you or they hit some weird snag, call the I Will Vote hotline for help: 833.336.8683. You might need to break off the conversation with your friend or family member and get back to them later with the answer.

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

I Will Vote and its hotline are provided by the Democratic National Committee. The hotline is staffed by volunteers.

There’s no direct way to earmark funds for the I Will Vote service, but you can put I Will Vote in the memo line of a personal check.

Checks should be made out to the Democratic National Committee and mailed to:

Democratic National Committee

PO Box 96585

Washington DC 20077-7242

The DNC also accepts donations via ActBlue:

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/web-donate

FiveThirtyEight is the brainchild of Nate Silver.