How Do I Vote By Mail? It's An Easy Way To Participate In The Election

The election is nearing and you've just realized you're not going to be near home on Nov. 8, or you've got to work, or the weather report just doesn't look so good, so you don't want to leave the house. Instead of trudging down to the polling station and waiting in line for hours to cast your vote, consider the much simpler option of casting your vote by mail before and through Election Day. Now you might be wondering: How do I vote by mail? It's really not difficult — and totally worth doing if there's a chance you'd miss out on voting in person.

I just mailed in my ballot yesterday, and, boy, does it feel great. I'll walk you through all the steps — and, relax — in most states you still have time to request a ballot. Some of the deadlines are coming up quickly, though, so don't wait any longer.

The first thing is to figure out what criteria you need to fulfill in order to qualify in your state. A few states — Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — mail ballots to all their registered voters. However, some states will only give you an absentee ballot — that's the official name of the mail-in ballot in many states — if you have an excuse for why you won't be able to make it to your normal polling station on Election Day.

But many don't even require that; in fact, more than half don't. More information about your state's requirements can be found on the Rock the Vote vote-by-mail voting page or even by entering "vote by mail" into the Google search bar. Either place will give you specifics about when you need to send in the request by and how to send in the form.

Some will let you fax or email the request in, but for others it must be hand-delivered or sent via snail mail. That means you'll need to track down a printer, too, unless you can go to the election officials' office and pick one up in person. If you have time to do that, it might be the simplest way, and no money spent on paper or postage. In any case, once you've made the request, you wait to get your ballot, which will eventually come in the mail.

Once you receive your ballot, read all the instructions, because you might only be able to use a pen of a certain color in some states. Make sure you figure out how to do things like fill in the ovals or complete the lines, as each ballot is a little bit different.

In my case, there was a secrecy envelope that I had to put the ballot in after finishing. Then that went in an affidavit envelope that you have to sign. Finally, there was another envelope that everything went in before it was mailed back. There were a lot of envelopes and detailed instructions, so just make sure to read it over before you get started.

The greatest part about voting by mail is that once you're done, it's all over. No more worrying about your role in deciding one of our most important elections ever. Just sit back, relax, and breathe easy knowing that you've cast your ballot by mail.