The Dos and Dont’s of Voting By Mail in Virginia

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

By Arianna Coghill
August 12, 2020

A checklist to help you make sure your absentee, mail-in ballot counts.

Between the coronavirus pandemic and new laws that make it easier to vote, many Virginians will likely be voting absentee for the first time this year.

However, some are concerned that voting by mail will be less forgiving than the in-person method, where a voter’s identity is verified on the spot and any difficulties can be handled by poll workers.

Statistics show that there’s still a learning curve in the commonwealth, where voters used to need an “official” excuse to vote absentee. That changed earlier this year. But in the June primaries, Virginia had a high number of rejected ballots due to simple, preventable, clerical errors. 

“One thing voters need to do is make sure if they decide to use that form, that they review it – make sure their information is correct,” Virginia Beach General Registrar Donna Patterson said to ABC 13

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Voting Absentee in Virginia

Here is a checklist to make sure that if you mail in your ballot this fall, it will count. 

Make Sure You’re Turning In Your Ballot on Time

Tardiness is often the leading cause of rejected mail-in ballots, especially amongst young Black and Latinx voters, according to NPR

Virginia had 5.67% of their mail-in ballots rejected because they came in after the deadline, the most of any other state. That means over 4,000 votes were not counted in that election. To successfully vote by mail in Virginia, your absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day.

For the presidential election, the deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is October 23 by 5 p.m. But if you don’t apply, you can still vote in-person early. The last day you can vote in-person at your registrar’s office with an absentee ballot is October 31 by 5 p.m. 

Does the Signature on Your Ballot Match the Signature on Your Envelope? 

Another common mistake with mail in ballots are people either forgetting to sign their envelope or their signatures not matching their ballots. 

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 1% of the approximately 33.2 million mail ballots that election administrators received weren’t counted. Some of the top reasons included a signature not matching the signature on file with the state, or that it was completely missing a signature, according to Washington Post. In Jefferson County, Kentucky, the state’s largest county had 3,848 absentee ballots rejected in the June primary due to lack of a voter signature.

Being careful to make sure your signatures match on your required ballot paperwork can go a long way. 

Make Sure You Use Separate Envelopes for Multiple Ballots

Election officials warn that sharing envelopes with other voters will leave you paying a higher price in the long run. Pay close attention to the directions on your ballot, and make sure that you’re using the envelopes that are provided. 

Do not put multiple ballots into one envelope. 

You should not have to pay for postage to mail your ballot if you’re voting in state, according to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. You only have to print the postage paid template available at

The UOCAVA says to double check that you have two envelopes: one for the ballot itself and one for mailing. 

Make Sure All Your Information on Your Ballot Is Correct

Mismatched or incorrect information is another way your ballot can be rejected. Make sure that important information like your name, age, and mailing address are all correct before you turn in your ballot. 

To vote by mail, the election office needs your current mailing address in order to confirm that you’re eligible to vote. 

If you have any further questions about voting by mail, visit the UOCAVA for more

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