News & Politics

How to Vote by Mail In DC, Maryland, and Virginia

Don't procrastinate, for one thing.

Image via iStock.

Tens of millions of people are expected to vote by mail in November. Millions of others, meanwhile, are wary of delays on postal routes, ballots getting lost, and other chaos that might result in a vote not being tallied. What to do if you want to vote by mail and ensure your vote is counted?

Know the deadlines. Mail your ballot in early. Follow the ballot instructions exactly. And once you’ve let go of your ballot, track it like mad. (Indeed, our local elections boards have put together tracking sites where you can follow your ballot like a FedEx package.) Here’s a step-by-step guide:

DC

How do I vote by mail in DC? 

Good news: the DC Board of Elections will be mailing every registered voter a ballot, beginning the first week of October. If you want the ballot sent to a different address than the one you’re registered at, fill out the absentee ballot request form, which must be received by October 27.

How do I make sure my ballot is counted? 

Your ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than November 13. If you’re concerned about your ballot arriving on time, you can drop off your ballot at any of the District’s ballot drop boxes by 8 PM on Election Day.

DC voters can track their ballot here

Maryland

How do I vote by mail in Maryland? 

The Maryland State Board of Elections sent a mail-in ballot request form to every eligible voter who hadn’t already requested a ballot. If you didn’t receive the form in the mail, you can fill it out online or in person at the local board of elections office, to receive your mail-in ballot. The form must be received no later than October 20.

How do I make sure my ballot is counted? 

According to the MSBOE website, voters must use a black pen to complete the ballot, and they must not sign their names or make any extra marks on the ballot. These rules are especially important, as the MSBOE rejected more than 35,700 mailed ballots during the June 2 primary election, according to NPR.

What’s the deadline for sending in my ballot?

Similar to DC, Maryland ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and must be received by 10 AM on November 13. Or, you can leave your ballot in a county drop box by 8 PM on Election Day. Your ballot instructions will include drop box locations, or you can check this statewide list.

Maryland voters can track their ballot here

Virginia

Am I eligible to vote by mail in Virginia?

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.

If you’re not a first-time voter, yes. Generally, first-time voters are required to vote in-person, unless they are eligible for an exemption, such as enrollment in a college or university.

How do I vote by mail? 

Qualifying voters can fill out either an online- or paper-ballot request by 5 PM on October 23. If you’re looking to vote by mail for future elections, Virginia allows voters to request mail-in ballots for a full year, so be sure to indicate that on your request form.

How do I make sure my ballot is counted? 

Though Virginia normally requires a witness’s signature on mail-in ballots, the state has waived that requirement for this year. However, if you’re a first-time Virginia voter who is permitted to vote by mail, you may be required to provide some form of ID along with your ballot. Watch your mailbox for a notice from the Virginia Department of Elections, with more information.

What’s the deadline for sending in my ballot?

Virginia has a tight deadline for mailing in ballots: In order to be counted, ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and be received no later than noon on November 6. This year, for the first time, Virginia is allowing ballots to be left in drop boxes, so if you’re worried about making the deadline, you can drop off your ballot at a drop box, or at your registered polling location on Election Day. Check your city or county website for a list of polling places and ballot drop boxes.

Virginia voters can track their mailed ballot here

SIGN UP
We engage readers directly in their mailboxes with topics like Health, Things to Do, Best Brunches, Design & Shopping, and Real Estate. Get the latest from our editors today.
Get The Best Of Washingtonian In Your Inbox!