Dominique Maria Bonessi/WAMU
Ballot drop-off boxes were set up around the state for the June 2 primary election to give voters the option of hand-delivering the mail-in ballots.
Dominique Maria Bonessi/WAMU
Amid stories of delayed mail deliveries, concerns over the new Postmaster General's plan for the U.S. Postal Service and President Donald Trump's repeated comments deriding voting by mail, it'd be natural for anyone opting to vote from home — and there's likely to be many of you — to suddenly question whether their ballot will get to where it needs to be on time to be counted. "People are trying to slow the mail or stop mail," said Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday.
But the jurisdictions in the Washington region offer a number of ways to vote early and also make sure that ballots get to where they need to go on time. Those include voting by mail, voting by drop box and early voting.
See below for what D.C., Maryland and Virginia offer voters. But also remember: if you do plan on voting by mail, election officials stress that you should err on the side of caution and do so as early as possible.
Vote By Mail: If you want to vote by mail in D.C., all you have to do is wait — the city has promised to send every registered voter a ballot in the mail, and election officials say those ballots should start landing in mailboxes starting the first week of October. (Need to make sure your address is correct? Check here.)
Vote By Drop Box: Once you've got that ballot all filled out and ready to be sent in, there's no need to head to a Post Office. D.C. will be installing up to 50 ballot drop boxes across the city ahead of the election. The locations are here. Areas in D.C. that have historically had problems with mail delivery — including wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River — will be getting more drop boxes. (Still, today Trump weighed in against ballot drop boxes, which have successfully been used by a number of Western states that have long offered vote-by-mail.)
Early Voting: You'll also be able to drop off a completed ballot at an early voting site (there will be 17 across D.C. opening Oct. 27) or any of the 74 polling places currently planned be open on Election Day itself. And if you need to drop off a ballot for friends or family who can't do so themselves, it's permitted provided the outer ballot envelope is sealed and has been signed by the voter.
If you do choose to mail your ballot in, D.C. law requires that it be postmarked by Election Day, which is Nov. 3. The D.C. Board of Elections has to receive the ballot by Nov. 13 for it to be counted.
Vote By Mail: Unlike in the June primary, ballots will not be mailed automatically to voters in Maryland. Residents have to request a ballot from the Maryland State Board of Elections, and the state has to receive requests by Oct. 20. A quick way to receive an application is to text "VBM" (remove the quotation marks) to 77788. If you miss the deadline, you can request and pick up a ballot at your local board of elections office. When you get your mail-in ballot, vote as soon as possible. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3. Your completed ballot must be received by the county Board of Elections by 10 a.m. on Nov. 13.
Vote By Drop Box: If you'd rather not mail your ballot, you can drop it off at drop boxes that will be installed across the state's counties, just as they were for the June primary. (Locations haven't yet been announced for Montgomery and Prince George's counties; look for addresses in your mail-in ballot package.) But in Montgomery County, one drop box will be installed at the county Board of Elections. Officials promise that the boxes will be emptied daily — rain or shine, including Sundays — by bipartisan county staff members. The deadline to drop off ballots is 8 p.m. on Election Day, and if you'd rather not drop it off yourself, you can have someone else do it for you.
Early Voting: Early voting will be available started Oct. 26 across Maryland. Both Montgomery and Prince George's counties will have 11 early voting sites; the list of all the locations is here. Keep in mind that only so many people will be allowed in the facilities at one time during the health emergency, so you can expect lines.
Voters can opt to receive their mail-in ballots digitally so they can print them at home, but a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Board of Elections says this option doesn't make sense for most voters. "Web delivery was meant for folks residing overseas," says Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Board of Elections. "These ballots take a longer time to process." You cannot email or fax your ballot to the board of elections. It will not be counted.
Vote By Mail: Virginia isn't automatically mailing voters a ballot, but any voter can now request an absentee ballot without needing to provide an excuse, a change from the past. (If you're a first-time voter, though, you may not be able to vote by mail; check with your local county elections board or registrar.) The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 13, and to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 23. To check your voter registration status, look here.
(Really) Early Voting: If you don't want to chance the mail, Virginia offers something few states do: 45 days-worth of early voting. It's technically known as "in-person absentee voting," but given that anyone can now take advantage of it, it's effectively a very long early voting period. That starts on Sept. 18, the same day the first mailings of absentee ballots are expected to go out to voters.
Dropping Off Your Ballot: As for ballot drop boxes like D.C. and Maryland have, Virginia law does not currently permit them. That could change, though; the General Assembly is in the special session starting Tuesday, and some local election officials have asked for ballot drop boxes to be allowed. Still, voters are allowed to drop off a completed ballot at their local registrar or elections board (by 7 p.m. on Election Day), but it's always worth checking by calling ahead.
And your county may offer alternatives: Gretchen Reinemeyer, director of elections in Arlington, says the county is working on supervised ballot drop-off sites at early voting locations. Dave Bjerke, director of elections for the City of Falls Church, says he's waiting on a legal opinion on whether he can place a mailbox outside his office where voters could deliver their own ballots.
If you are dropping your ballot in the mail, note that it has to be postmarked by Election Day and received by your local elections board by noon on Friday, Nov. 6.
This story originally appeared on DCist.