Like millions of other Americans, you may have planned to vote by mail this year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. More than 72 million absentee and mail-in ballots have already been requested for the presidential election on Nov. 3.
But just because you ask for or receive a ballot by mail, that doesn’t mean it’s your only option for voting. Maybe you change your mind. Maybe your ballot never arrives. Maybe you misplace it. Maybe you just decide it will be easier if you vote in person, or you’re worried about potential delays in the mail.
Intentionally voting twice in the same election is illegal, but if you change your mind about voting by mail and want to do it in person, there will be a way for you to still vote ― some states just make you jump through more hoops than others. In at least 16 states, if you request an absentee ballot but never cast it, you’ll be offered a provisional ballot when you go to your polling place. A provisional ballot is a real ballot given to voters whose eligibility needs to be reviewed by the local election board before it can be counted.
Although some states have different rules over whether you ought to bring your mail-in ballot with you to vote in person, the overarching takeaway in each is this: There will be a way for you to vote.
Below are the rules for a number of states for what to do if you change your mind. Don’t see instructions for your state? Check your local department of elections for more information.
If you change your mind about voting by mail in this state, you can only cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. This is because once your absentee ballot application is processed, your name is taken off the list of eligible voters for regular voting, the office of Alabama’s secretary of state told HuffPost.
You do not need to bring the absentee ballot with you on Election Day, but be prepared to show ID to cast your provisional ballot.
In California, if you change your mind about voting by mail, you have three options:
1. Fill out your absentee ballot, seal it, sign and date the outside of the envelope, and bring it on Election Day to your polling place or to your county elections office.
2. Bring your unused ballot with you to your local polling place on Election Day, and a poll worker will exchange it for an in-person ballot.
3. Leave your unused absentee ballot at home and cast a provisional ballot on Election Day.
In Florida, you can bring the mail-in ballot to your polling place on Election Day so it can be voided, and then you can vote in person.
But even if you don’t bring your mail-in ballot, you will still be able to vote. If the supervisor of elections’ office is able to confirm that it has not received your vote-by-mail ballot, you can cast a regular ballot, according to Florida’s division of elections. If the supervisor cannot confirm that the state hasn’t received your ballot, you can still cast a provisional one on the spot.
In Georgia, if you requested a ballot by mail and it never came or you change your mind, you can still vote in person but you will need to sign a document saying you haven’t already voted.
Residents of this state who change their minds about voting by mail can bring the ballot to their local polling place on Election Day and turn it into the election judge ― the person who manages the precinct polling place ― and then vote in person.
In Maryland, if records show that you received a mail-in ballot and you decide to vote in person, you can cast a provisional ballot at the polls.
In Massachusetts, if you haven’t sent back your mail-in ballot or if you learn it has been rejected, you can vote in-person during early voting or on Election Day.
A voter who requests a mail-in ballot and then changes their mind “can either take the ballot to their clerk in advance and request to spoil it, or they can surrender it at the polls on Election Day,” Michigan’s Department of State told HuffPost. “In either scenario, our qualified voter file is updated to reflect their original absentee ballot was spoiled and they voted at the polls instead.”
If, for whatever reason, you do not bring your absentee ballot with you, you need to sign an affidavit at the polling place that cancels your absentee ballot. And then you can vote in person.
New Jersey is among the states that automatically sent a mail-in ballot to every active registered voter. If you received one but decide you want to vote in person on Election Day, you can do so through a paper provisional ballot, the state’s division of election explains. Those with a disability that requires an accommodation other than a paper ballot will also be able to vote.
New York’s election law “recognizes that plans change,” according to the state’s Board of Elections website. “Even if you request or cast and return an absentee ballot, you may still go to the polls and vote in person,” the state’s explainer says. If you go in person, your earlier absentee vote will be set aside and not counted.
In North Carolina, once you cast an absentee ballot and it has been received, that counts as your vote. But if you haven’t turned in your mail-in ballot, you may vote in person at the polls, according to the state’s board of elections.
In Ohio, if your name appears on the official poll list as having requested an absentee ballot, you can cast a provisional ballot if you ended up not mailing in your vote.
In Pennsylvania, if you signed up to vote by mail but decide you want to vote at your polling place, “you will need to bring both your mail-in or absentee ballot AND the outer return envelope to your polling place,” Pennsylvania’s website states.
If you received a mail-in ballot but want to vote in person during early voting or on Election Day, you need to bring your mail-in ballot with you to the polls so it can be surrendered to an on-site election administrator, the office of the Texas Secretary of State told HuffPost.
In Virginia, if you received an absentee ballot and then decide to vote by mail, you can only cast a provisional ballot, the website for the state’s department of elections states.
In Washington, ballots are automatically mailed to registered voters. If you would rather vote in person during early voting or on Election Day, you can, the state’s election division explains on its website.
If you change your mind about voting absentee in Wisconsin and want to vote in person, you can cast a regular ballot at the polls, Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told HuffPost. You do not need to bring your absentee ballot with you, but you can expect that your name will be watermarked in the rolls. This simply means that when you go to vote, poll workers will ask if you have already voted by mail, he said.
Magney said you can also call ahead to your local clerk’s office and let them know you changed your plans, and no watermark will appear next to your name when you go to vote in person.