ELECTION PROCESS

Are Absentee Votes And Mail-In Votes Different?

Oct 13, 2020, 10:55 AM | Updated: Oct 27, 2020, 11:07 am
FILE (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
FILE (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

What’s the difference between absentee voting and mail voting?

There really isn’t any difference. Both refer to the practice of filling out ballots that are sent to voters through the mail and returned either that way or at drop boxes or other designated places.

President Donald Trump has said that absentee balloting is fine, while mail balloting is not. Absentee voting, the president sometimes argues, means someone has to request a ballot as opposed to automatically getting one in the mail, which he calls mail voting.

The problem is that some states call ballots that people request through the mail “mail ballots.” Others call them absentee ballots. Both versions of ballots are processed and counted the same way. The two terms are used interchangeably with no legal distinction. The Trump campaign acknowledged this in a lawsuit it filed over Pennsylvania’s voting procedures.

There is one system that stands out, what is known as universal mail voting. That’s when all the state’s registered voters receive a ballot through the mail. Prior to this election, five states used this system, including Utah. Four more have adopted it for November.

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Are Absentee Votes And Mail-In Votes Different?