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Military and Overseas Voters

EAC has several projects under way to assist states in serving military and overseas citizens who register and vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. Learn more

Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail

Title: Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail

Review Comments for this Section:

Comment  Creator  Last Modified 

General Comment: Incorporate all absentee voting information into one document or mention complete information in both documents. Currently, absentee information is also mentioned in Developing an Audit Trail. 

lamonel 04/21/2008 02:30 PM

Ballot Preparation and Mailing:


Staffing Needs (page 2) – Recognize that the same employees may need to serve on multiple teams if there are not a sufficient number of employees.  Teams should be supervised by regular staff. 


Ballot Preparation and Printing (page 3) – When considering security issues, consider security at printing facility.  Reminder that there are two types of absentee envelopes – one for domestic, civilian voters and one for military and overseas voters.  Under examples listed on page 4, suggest mailing to the pre-printed mailing address several absentee envelopes once the ballots have been received from the printer.  This verifies that the mailing address on the envelope is proper and that the mail is timely delivered.


Ballot Mailing (page 5) – Conducting logic and accuracy testing on the ballot styles before mailing is not always possible.  Any delay in the printing and delivery of the ballots may result in simultaneous logic and accuracy and mailing of the ballots.


lamonel 04/21/2008 02:35 PM

Ballot Reception (page 6):

  • Typo in second line of first paragraph. 
  • In list of bulleted items of statistical information, recognize that you will not yet know some of the bulleted information (i.e., number of envelopes that do not contain a ballot, etc). 
  • The two paragraphs under this list are duplicative.  The text and the bulleted information are not both needed.

Initial Envelope Sort (page 7) – Amend 1st sentence of 2nd paragraph to "If signature verification is required by State law, it is important to provide your staff with signature verification training."  Introductory language is important to clarify that text only applies if State law requires signature verification.


Replacement Ballots (page 8) – Amend 2nd sentence of 1st paragraph to "If required, the voter must complete and sign a replacement ballot request form."  Not all jurisdictions require this form.


lamonel 04/21/2008 02:42 PM

Ballot Processing (page 8):

  • Add as the first bullet to verify that the batch contains the number of envelopes as stated in the data entry log strip.
  • In the 4th bullet, change "tamper-evident sealed" to "secured" containers. 


Determining Voter Intent (page 10) – Section 301(a)(6) of the Help America Vote Act requires that each State adopt "uniform and nondiscriminatory standards that define what constitutes a vote and what will be counted as a vote for each category of voting system used in the State."  This section should refer to the State’s definition of what constitutes a vote and what will be counted.  Throughout this document, the verb "should" is used, but in the paragraph above the Sample Form (page 11), the verb "must" is used. Suggest rewriting sentence as "Each worker should initial both ballots and complete a duplicate ballot log."  (Note the correction of the typo in the last word.)


Ballot Tabulation (p. 12) – In the Ballot Log Transfer Sheet, the phrase "Flattening" team is used for the first time.  Suggest either removing the term or defining it, where appropriate, in the document.  In the Scanning Team Report section of the sheet, suggest adding "Number of Blank Votes." 


lamonel 04/21/2008 02:32 PM

Storage and Security (page 15) – add bullet under "Security" for security at the printing facility.


lamonel 04/21/2008 02:37 PM

Voter Education (page 16) – In the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph, add "or instructions" after checklist.  It would seem more important to recommend that certain information be provided than recommending how the information be presented.  The introductory text indicates that the examples will use a website, but some of the examples are not web-based (i.e., distribute voting procedures to special interest groups). 


lamonel 04/21/2008 02:33 PM

Page 1

Permanent absentee--usually, but not always, reserved

Vote by Mail--might double check--Washington may be all vote by mail


Page 2

Space--should note that space should be "secure space"

Staff--not always part-tiime.  Some times it is regualar staff.

Last paragraph under staffing...might add ..staggered shifts or overtime


Page 3

Ballor Preparation...add to list "Last day for receipt of voted absentee ballots"


Page 4

Second bullet...add (on site supervisions and quality control is required


Page 6

3rd paragraph -- add at the end of paragraph.."or deadline for ballot receipt"


Page 7

Add to first set of bullets "Ballot has markings that could identify the voter"

First paragraph ..envelope is signed by the close of polls or deadline for ballot receipt

Paragraph that begins ..."it is important..."  first check is done by regular (or extra help)

NOTE:  If it is determined that the signature does not math the voter registration card or digitized signature , notify the voter and take other action that is required by your state law, policy and/or regulation.


Page 8

Ballot processing   ...  Based on State law and/or local policies....


Page 9

First bullet  .... i.e. substitute damaged for torn and add identifying marks


Page 10

Add to bullets on top of page Marks that could identify the voter

Ist paragraph should add that the ballot being duplicated should be retained


Page 15

Storage...add...according to federal and your state

TIP  Some states require this


Page 16

First bullet... add  If permitted, include a copy....

Second bullet... after TIP...add... If permitted, consider

Third paragraph change Election Day to election day.  According to Karen Lynn Dyson the EAC's policy it not to use caps on Election Day. 

Last paragraph...Distribute absentee voting procedures brochure to special...






ehawkins 04/23/2008 01:44 PM
  ehawkins 04/23/2008 01:45 PM
  ehawkins 04/23/2008 01:40 PM
  ehawkins 04/23/2008 01:45 PM
  ehawkins 04/23/2008 01:41 PM
  ehawkins 04/23/2008 01:41 PM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Introduction - page 1):

The 2nd and 3rd bullet points are both titled as "Absentee". Each have a clarifying statement, however, the term "Absentee" gives the connotation that the voter must be "Absent" and unable to vote at the polls on election day in order to request this type of ballot. Because of this, Arizona modified this term many years ago to "Early Voting" with the notation that the voter does not need to provide an excuse or reason to vote "Early". Our recommendation would be to standardize, for uniformity and clarity, this term for no excuse voting to "Early Voting".  At the very least, possibly modify the title to "• Early Voting/Absentee (Voter does not have to provide a reason or excuse)".

hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:33 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Ballot Preparation and Printing - page 3):

There is a typo in the "Ballot Preparation and Printing" section, first sentence of this section, following the bullets. Should read as "Once the timeline…" instead of "One the timeline…".

hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:29 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Ballot Mailing - page 5):

Second paragraph, third sentence uses the word "stuffed" and again, the connotation of the word "stuffing" is probably not the best choice of words for the election industry. Our preferred word is "inserted" instead of "stuffed". Recommendation is that this sentence should read "… should also be printed and balanced to the number of envelopes printed, inserted, and delivered to the post office every day."


The "NOTE" paragraph, second sentence, uses the term "will require" which is not true of all post offices. Some post offices do not weigh the trucks if they do not have that capability. Instead they weigh each postal cart coming off the truck to establish a piece count. Recommend that either this is clarified or changed to "If delivery is by truck, the Post Office may require the truck to be weighed…" instead of "will require".



Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Ballot Reception - page 6):

There is a typo in the first paragraph, second sentence of this page.  Delete the word "is" and sentence should read "They should be located in an area that can be viewed and monitored by authorized personnel."


The second paragraph, first sentence seems to infer that the "drop site" should be accessible by key when I think the intended statement is that the "mailbox" should be accessible by key and not necessarily the site itself. Recommend that the sentence should read "If you plan to use outdoor mailboxes for drive-by or walking traffic, the ballot drop site mailboxes should only be accessible by a key that is in the possession of two authorized election staff members." We changed the term "personnel" at the end of this sentence to remain consistent with the next sentence that references "a team of two election staff". Also, it may be wise to add a sentence, after this particular sentence, that indicates that if outdoor "mailboxes" are going to be used, that these mailboxes should be secured (e.g. bolted to the ground) so that they cannot be removed easily and also that these mailboxes must be tamper proof so that the ballots deposited within them cannot be accessed without the designated key.

hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:36 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Initial Envelope Sort - page 7):

Second set of bullet points provides the possible options that can be provided to a voter who has returned a "no signature" packet. Our recommendation would be to add another paragraph following these bullets points that would clarify some options that a jurisdiction may want to consider when it comes to "no signature" packets. The below options are currently used in Maricopa County, Arizona, when it comes to "no signature" packets that are received.



If, in accordance with State law, the jurisdiction is required to notify the voter that the ballot cannot be counted without their signature, the jurisdiction may consider these options as a method of making contact with the voter regarding the missing signature on the returned packet:

·   Automatically re-mail (if time permits) the unsigned and unopened envelope back to the voter in a separate outgoing envelope. This mailing would be accompanied with a return envelope for the signed affidavit to go back into and a letter explaining to the voter that their envelope was received unsigned and cannot be counted without their signature.

·   If time does not permit for the re-mailing of the envelope, the election’s department may want to attempt to call the voter, using the information in file, to inform them that they have the option of voting a provisional ballot at the polls on Election Day or coming to a central office location, where the envelopes are kept, to sign their unsigned envelope.

hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:46 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Ballot Preparation and Printing - page 4):

Second bullet point reads "Identify staffing needs at all stages of the process (on-site supervision is required)". This should state that "(on-site supervision may be required)".  On-site supervision is not required at all phases of ballot printing process. As an example, when a vendor is contracted to print the actual ballots, permanent staff member on-site supervision is not required at the actual printing press facility.


Second set of bullet points, 1st bullet sentence, on this same page, uses the word "stuffing" and the connotation of the word "stuffing" is likened to "stuffing the ballot box". Our preferred choice of words is "inserting" instead of "stuffing". The term "Inserting" is used elsewhere in this document when referring to this project.


Second set of bullet points, 2nd bulleted sentence, on this same page, seems to be written incorrectly. I believe it should read "Implement bar code technology for easy updating of voter history when…" instead of "Implement bar code technology for ease updating voter history when…"


hpurcell 04/25/2008 11:08 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Ballot Review Process - page 9):

Second paragraph in this section indicates that board members determine voter intent and it is inferred that this should be done before tabulation since it appears before the "Ballot Tabulation" section of this guide. The review process itself is acceptable and probably standard, however, there should be some notation here that the stage of this review can be before tabulation or after attempted tabulation, based on State law. In other words, in Maricopa County, Arizona, ballots are not reviewed for voter intent at the two member ballot possessing stage. They are only looking, at this stage, for obvious damaged ballots (i.e. torn, mangled, etc.) that will not read. What we use to determine mismarked ballots is the actual tabulation equipment. If a ballot is marked incorrectly, the equipment will out stack the ballot as a misread, unreadable or as a blank ballot. These out stacked ballots are then sent to a two member citizen board, made up of opposite political party affiliation, to begin the process of reviewing the out stacked ballots to determine voter intent.


Our recommendation would be to clarify and reword this Second paragraph to read "Based on State law, determine whether your jurisdiction is responsible for determining voter intent and at what stage of the process is this to be done (before tabulation or after attempted tabulation). Most optical scan tabulation equipment can be setup to out stack ballots that are marked incorrectly as misread, unreadable or as blank ballots.


hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:47 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Ballot Review Process - page 10):

There is a typo in the first paragraph, second sentence of this page. The sentence should read "Each worker must initial both ballots and complete a duplicate ballot log (example below)." instead of "lot".

hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:43 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Managing Absentee ballots at the Polls on Election Day - page 14, FLOW CHART):

The flow chart presented here has a scenario where a "VOTER WANTS TO VOTE AT THE POLLS" and it indicates that if the "Voter has Absentee Ballot but wants to vote at polls" that ultimately, if the absentee ballot is surrendered, that the voter is issued a regular ballot and it is placed in the scanner. This is not an acceptable practice for jurisdictions that issue replacement ballots (per page 8 of this guide) to voters who request another early/absentee ballot (lost, spoiled, etc.).  Instead, in a jurisdiction that allows for replacement early/absentee ballots to be issued, a voter that wants to vote at the polls (that has requested an early/absentee ballot) should still vote a "provisional ballot". This is to ensure that they have not voted already. As an example, a voter can surrender their early/absentee ballot to the board worker but it does not mean that the packet surrendered was the only packet issued.


To allow them to cast a regular ballot through the scanner means that if it is determined later that the voter surrender issue 1 but actually already voted issue 2, then that ballot cast at the polls, through the scanner, cannot be backed out of the totals and the voter has subsequently voted twice. There are, of course, legal consequences that can be pursued to prosecute the voter who voted twice, but it does not resolve the fact that an invalid ballot was cast which could have been prevented, in this circumstance, through the use of a provisional ballot at the polls.


Our recommendation is to add a note, at the bottom of this flow chart, which indicates the following:


NOTE: This flow chart is specific to jurisdictions that do not issue replacement early/absentee ballots. If a jurisdiction does issue replacement early/absentee ballots, then the surrendering of an early/absentee ballot at the polls may still require the voter to vote a provisional ballot. The reason for this is that multiple ballots may be in a voter’s possession and there is no way (outside of real time electronic poll books) for a board worker to know if one of those other replacement ballots had already been cast.

hpurcell 04/25/2008 11:08 AM

Comments on Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail (Voter Education - page 16):

The second bullet point provides a "Tip". It is our recommendation that this tip include the suggestion to allow a voter to request an early/absentee ballot from the web site.


Recommended change would be to have the sentence read "Tip: Consider including a link that allows the voter to confirm their registration status and to request an early/absentee ballot on your web site."

hpurcell 04/24/2008 10:46 AM

In Vermont we permit the remarking of a ballot that is damaged or marked in a way that it cannot be read by the optical scan machine.  It is important to have safeguards in place to ensure ballot integrity.  Our law requires us to establish rules for municipalities using voting machines, whereby markings on ballots that are unreadable by a machine may be transferred by a pair of election officials, who are not members of the same political party, to ballots that are readable by the machine.

dmarkowitz 04/25/2008 08:31 AM
  dmarkowitz 04/25/2008 08:36 AM

In Vermont we permit larger jurisdictions to begin to process the absentee ballots in advance of Election Day, but the ballots envelopes are not opened, and the ballots not placed in the ballot box (or optical scan machine) until Election Day.  We permit our polls to open an hour early for the processing of absentee ballots (pollwatchers, etc  may be present, but the public cannot yet vote).  This helps jurisdictions who have thousands of ballots to process so that they do not have to process the ballots after the close of the polls.  

dmarkowitz 04/25/2008 08:46 AM

Under the Voter Education section on page 16, it is important to include the media as part of your education efforts.  Provide your local and state media with any deadlines and requirements that specific to absentee voting. 

Depending on state laws, it makes sense to include the different types of absentee voting in your state.  For instance, Indiana voters may vote in-person at the county election board (or sattelite location) for any reason starting 29 days before the election and up to noon the day before.  However, voters who request an absentee by mail or traveling board must meet any one of a number of excuses before a ballot can be issued.  Those applying for a mail-in ballot must also have the application submitted by midnight 7 days prior to the election, for instance, our Primary is on May 6, and applications for a mail-in ballot are due by midnight on April 28.

This is just another effective means to educate your voters that we encourage in Indiana, and many other states also take part in.  jm

trokita1 04/25/2008 03:08 PM
  barnwine 04/25/2008 03:22 PM


General Comment(s):

  • In addition to ballot preparation and printing, the document should detail how the state absentee and vote by mail application process should work, not just the process for casting absentee ballots. The explanation of the process should include information regarding preparation, printing, handling, receiving, sending, and processing of state absentee voting and vote by mail applications.

  • The document should include, where appropriate, a reference to review relevant sections in Ballot Building, Developing an Audit Trail, and other chapters affecting Absentee Voting and Vote by Mail applications and ballots.

barnwine 04/25/2008 03:24 PM
  barnwine 04/25/2008 03:20 PM



  • The introduction should emphasize that state and local election laws and regulations, and relevant case law, should always be followed and supersede recommendations contained in this document. Additionally, the introduction should encourage local election officials and administrators to seek, whenever possible, written clarification from state officials when there is a question as to whether a practice is permitted or prohibited under state law.

  • The introduction should be revised to include who is entitled to receive each type of ballot described in the bullet points listing the "voting by mail" types.

barnwine 04/25/2008 03:22 PM


Ballot Preparation and Printing:

  • The first set of bullet points should include a point allowing time for public review of ballot design and content.

  • The first set of bullet points should also be revised to include "Developing the ballot order and finalizing contract negotiation with the ballot printer," rather than in the 3rd paragraph where it is currently included.

barnwine 04/25/2008 03:28 PM


Ballot Reception:


  • The second paragraph should include a recommendation of establishing a written procedure for collecting ballots where a Post Office box is used by the elections office.


  • The third paragraph should include a recommendation of using public assistance offices, senior and community centers, and secure polling place locations in areas with significant minority or traditionally disenfranchised communities as drop off locations when applicable.
barnwine 04/25/2008 03:29 PM


Initial Envelope Sort:

  • In the paragraph discussing signature verification, the paragraph should be revised to suggest reviewing any applicable laws and/or regulations regarding signatures of voters who are, physically or otherwise, unable to sign their name, as those laws may include provisions regarding the matching process.

  • The third paragraph should include a recommendation of using public assistance offices, senior and community centers, and secure polling place locations in areas with significant minority or traditionally disenfranchised communities as drop off locations when applicable.

barnwine 04/25/2008 03:30 PM


Determining Voter Intent:

  • The first paragraph should be revised to include a recommendation that every effort should be made to employ procedures and review mechanisms that are consistent and keep the rights of the voter in mind.

barnwine 04/25/2008 03:30 PM

In the Determining Voter Intent section, there should be an introductory statement that "The first reference point for determining voter intent is State law, if your state has enacted legislation seeking to define or specify what constitutes an indication of or example of acceptable evidence of voter intent."  The discussion can then proceed to how the inspection board will establish an agreement on what constitutes voter intent.

wkliner 04/25/2008 03:49 PM

As absentee voting and vote by mail programs are regulated under state law, there are few related procedures and practices that have common application or use in all states. As a consequence, the utility of the document is questionable. Where the document speaks in broad terms, it is too broad to be of any real use. Where attempts are made to offer more detailed instruction, there is real risk that the instruction may be at variance with the governing state laws involved. Examples include the commentary and illustrations on page 10 under "Determining Voter Intent" and the "Ballots Returned" log shown on the bottom of page 7.


To highlight the differences among states is requirement to have a numbered, detachable stub on the ballot.  This adds a level of security and audit-ability to an extent.  It also adds layers of processsing steps not included here.  I would not suggest including those steps, but would suggest some reference to the fact that numbered stubs are common in number of states requiring additional processing steps.



Voter intent is another slippery slop.  Much disagreement can be generated in any discussion (debate) on this topice.  HAVA attempted to remove subjective voter intent determinations.  State laws are now supposed to clearly define what a proper vote is.  These standards should clearly state that requirement so there is no expectation that local election officials will be establishing voter intent standards.  For example, Michigan is not a voter intent state; however, our law has always allowed a voter to correct errors.  Absentee ballots will reflect a variety of methods by which voters change their minds or correct their errors.  I provide this example, not to advocate a method, but to show how different distinctions are made by the states.

Also on page 1 there is reference that "Often" the request for an application must be "notarized".  Is 'often' the correct word.  Not sure how many states actually still require notarization.



cthomas 04/27/2008 10:54 AM
  cthomas 04/27/2008 10:59 AM