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Hello again from the How To Vote In Every State team.

At the beginning of the year, we wrote and recorded 53 videos explaining the rules and deadlines for voting in each state, as well as DC, unincorporated territories, and the special rules for military and overseas voters.

Of course, we are now many months into a pandemic, and that has had some consequences for the upcoming elections. Many states have changed their rules around voting by mail or voting absentee, so we wanted to check back in with you and talk about those changes if that’s the route you want to take.

First things first: your state may refer to this as voting by mail or voting absentee, but it’s basically the same thing. It’s just a way for you to receive your ballot in the mail, ahead of time, so that you can fill it out at your own pace and then mail it back so that it arrives at your board of elections office in time to be counted. This way, you avoid Election Day lines and, importantly in 2020, can stay safely distanced while still having your vote counted.

If you’re planning to vote by mail, make sure you know your state’s deadlines. Some states differentiate between whether ballot requests and ballots need to be received by a certain date or postmarked by a certain date – meaning that in some states, the deadlines are based on the day that your ballot arrives at your board of elections office, and in others it’s based on the day you take it to the post office.

Also, many states have secure ballot drop boxes, so you can skip the post office altogether. It’s important to note that there will be an unusually large influx of mail ballots this year. And even without that influx, the mail is not instantaneous, so you have to allow time for all of the mail stuff to happen. The sooner you request your ballot – and once you get it, the sooner you fill it out and return it – the better.

If you haven’t requested your ballot yet – or made sure it’s coming to the right address – consider this video a sign that you should go do that right now. Like, right now. Pause this video, open a new tab. I’ll be here waiting when you’re done.

Prior to this year, many states had fairly specific rules around who was eligible to vote absentee. However, at the time of this recording, many of those states have announced some sort of expansion to this process in light of the pandemic. And in some cases changes are still happening. So check the video description for your state’s video for the most up-to-date information on changes to the voting process in your state.

Several states had already planned to conduct the entire election by mail, pre-pandemic. If you’re in one of those states, you’re good to go. Take this opportunity to double check that you’re registered at the right address, maybe start researching candidates, but the process has not changed.

But a few more states are now also planning to conduct the 2020 election by mail – meaning that all registered voters should receive their ballot in the mail without requesting it. You just need to make sure you’re registered and then you’ll get your ballot in the mail automatically. Again: check the video description for your state’s video to see if this is you.

Many states already had or have since added no-excuse absentee ballot requests – meaning that they hold IRL elections, but anybody could request to vote by mail without needing a reason. No excuse meaning -- you don’t need an excuse; you just need to request it. Some states have even decided to mail absentee request forms to all registered voters in 2020, but if you haven’t received or submitted that form yet, make sure you request your absentee ballot as soon as possible.

Several states that require a reason to vote absentee have expanded those reasons to include the pandemic, so there will be a box to check citing COVID concerns on your mail ballot request form.  Additionally, some states have expanded absentee voting without updating their forms. So when you go to fill out your request for a mail ballot you won’t see a COVID option, but voters concerned about the pandemic can check the box for “illness” as their reason for requesting a mail ballot.

Most states also have some sort of online system for checking the status of your ballot so that you can know when it gets received and counted. It’s like package tracking ,but for democracy.

One other option for avoiding the lines on election day and still making sure your vote gets counted is voting early in person. Not every state has this option, but many states that offer this have extended the days and hours for early voting in 2020. So, one last time: check the description for your state’s video to see if this is an option for you.

Aside from checking the video description, the best way to make sure you have the most up to date, official information is to check your state’s board of elections website. All of that information will be linked below so that you can make sure you’re registered, check your address, find your early voting center, or request your mail ballot. Or even figure out who to contact if you have any questions. Thank you for being a voter.

How To Vote in Every State is produced by Complexly in partnership with The MediaWise Voter Project, which is led by The Poynter Institute and supported by Facebook.