Crucial Vote by Mail Info – Make Sure to Follow These Guidelines

With many people planning to vote by mail, it’s essential that every step is correct. Ballots will be arriving in the next few weeks, and while we have had just a few bumps, locally, in past elections (change of polling places, new machines) it wise to approach your vote this year like a beginner. It’s a whole new world. 

Happily, if you were a student in the US, you have a model; standardized testing. It’s that important, and it’s that rigid.  

First, make sure you are registered. You are signing up to take the test.

When you get your mail in ballot, be sure to fill it out on a flat dry surface (no nearby coffee mugs or wine glasses) and carefully follow the instructions that come with it. Similar to the multiple-choice standardized Scantron tests you took in high school, ballot scanners can accept only certain colors of ink and ballots that are filled out properly. Ballots can’t have stray marks or multiple choices filled in for the same office. It’s true – a ring from a coffee cup could invalidate your vote. 

From Business Insider, “If your instructions say to use black or blue ink, use black or blue ink. If it says fill in the oval, fill in the oval. I think it’s really critical for voters to follow the instructions more than anything,” Amber McReynolds, the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute and a former director of the Denver Elections Division in Colorado.

Simple stuff, but absolutely crucial. 

It’s a very long ballot. Not just national but state propositions, county measures, municipal measures, community college district, city council and school board. Very, very, long ballot. Give yourself the time to do your homework, consult with sources your trust. Do not vote for whoever sends you the most glossy postcards. Do not take the advice of any fly-by-night organization that you have never heard of, claiming to be the official Republican or Democratic endorsement. Take your time and do your research. 

If it says “only vote for one” voting for two will spoil your ballot. That is an overvote.

If it says “choose five” on a list of twelve, only choosing three will not spoil your ballot. That is an undervote, and does not matter. 

County canvassing boards often must resolve major errors with mail ballots. “If you’re voting in person, and your ballot doesn’t go through the tabulator, almost all models of tabulators will kick it back out and say there’s something wrong, either a double vote, overvote, or something like that,” he said. “In a vote-by-mail system, you don’t get that second-chance opportunity, so those ballots have to be adjudicated.” Adrian Fontes, the top election official in Maricopa County, Arizona, re-emphasized that mail in votes do not get second chances. 

You must sign the envelope with the exact same signature you used to register to vote. Signature matching adds an extra layer of security to ensure the integrity of mail ballots, but it can also lead to a greater share of ballots being challenged or rejected. Make sure yours gets accepted without any challenge. 

According to a study published in the Washing ton Post ( young voters, first time voters and minority voters are more likely to have their votes nullified by signature challenges. So, if your ‘John Hancock’ has always been extravagant, this is not the moment to be neat. Do it the same way you’ve always done it. If you need to develop a style, or you are not sure how you singed when you registered, re-register with on specific signature, take a picture of it with your phone, and use that exact signature on the envelope of your mail in ballot. 

Dropping a mail in ballot in the mail would seem like the thing to do. This time, it’s not. Take your ballot to the Post Office, wait in line and make sure it gets a post mark. Ballots need to marked by Election Day – That’s Nov. 3, 2020.  While you are there, buy a sheet of stamps and wish them well. The country needs a functional post office.

There is little concern about the fairness of voting in Culver City, in LA County. or the State of California. Thanks to the foresight of Secretary of State Debra Bowen, we are required to have a paper trail. Each ballot – even if the ballot is filled out by a machine – must be printed and turned in as a paper copy.  

So – black or blue ink, fill out the markings completely, sign the envelope exactly as you signed your registration, and take it to the post office to get postmarked. 

This a test we all need to pass. 

Judith Martin-Straw

Editor’s note: CulverCityCrossroads will be running the always popular column “Mark Your Ballot.” If you crave a perspective on local candidates or issues, we will cover those. We will, as always, also go over the entire ballot as Culver City residents receive it. 


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