At least 65 million absentee votes were cast early by mail in the 2020 general election, compared to 34 million absentee votes in 2016, according to the U.S. Elections Project and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, respectively. However, a number of people who intended to vote via mail-in ballots this year surrendered their mail-in ballots and voted in-person instead.
Voters in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Illinois, and Minnesota all reported that fellow voters opted to invalidate their absentee ballots at the polls on Election Day and cast their votes live. Their reasons included concerns about their absentee ballots being received on time, mail-in votes being counted legally, and finding a dropbox for the ballots.
“[T]here's a court decision in Minnesota that might render ballots received via mail after Election Day uncounted (different than instructions),” Caitlyn Stenerson of Minnesota shared on Twitter. “So, some friends decided to vote in person since they had to drop it off in person anyways.”
For others, voting via a mail-in ballot required a logistical process that wasn’t realistic.
By the time Ciarra Jones updated her voter registration and requested an absentee ballot after her recent move to Los Angeles, it was just before Election Day.
“Finding stamps where I live takes some effort,” Jones wrote in an email. “As Election Day drew nearer, other things simply got in the way ... work, life, and other responsibilities ... I don’t trust the Trump administration so ultimately voting in person made me feel more secure in the fact that my vote will mean something."
Mary Barton in Columbia, Md., noticed a similar concern with her son, who is a college student. When she asked him about the logistics of his absentee voting plan, she discovered that he wasn’t prepared to mail in his vote. In a direct message on Twitter, Barton explained that she ended up lending her son her car so he could return home and vote in person; he brought along one of his fraternity brothers who hadn't applied for an absentee ballot.
In Somerset County, Penn., Rebecca West wanted to vote absentee in order to avoid crowds during the pandemic. Eventually, she chose to go to the polls in order to make sure that her vote was counted.
“When I received my ballot, I was hearing about the problems with USPS,” West tweeted. “Decided to just vote in person.; however, I had pitched mine so had to vote provisionally at the polls.”
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association in Wyncote, Penn., noticed a “small minority of people with their absentee ballots in hand” while she served as an election defender in Pennsylvania.
Wechterman said that, regardless of how they cast their ballot, every voter has a priority and a right to vote in this election.
“As long as people have a method to vote, we’re here to support them voting legally using whichever method makes the most sense for them at a given moment,” Wechterman told Sojourners. “The belief that we’re all founded in God’s image, to ensure that all humans have a right and obligation to determine how they are being governed, those ideals are the very reason why my faith communities and others have been able to flourish in this country. I take them very seriously, and I’m honored to be part of the process and to reiterate the need for every vote to be counted.”