The 2020 election will likely go down in history as one of the most consequential elections in history, certainly because of the presidential election winner, but even more so because of the voting process. The unpredictable nature of the pandemic, drama surrounding ballot drop-off boxes, and recording-breaking voter turnout have all rocked 2020's voting process to its core. Particularly for those who've never voted absentee before and were forced to so because of the coronavirus, figuring out if your vote was actually counted may help calm some election-related nerves. Even after voting absentee for the last five years, it still helps me.
"People are worried about vote-by-mail because they’re not the ones physically putting it in somebody’s hands or putting it in the box, and I think that’s why the tracking is so much more robust,” Jessica Levinson, a professor and expert on election laws at Loyola Law School, told The Huffington Post.
Generally speaking, the tracking process is a lot easier than you think, and depending on where you live, you may even be able to get text or email notifications regarding your ballot status, like in California or Colorado. While most states and counties do offer a way to track your absentee ballot — from the moment you request to when it's been counted — not all places do. The easiest first step in checking if your absentee vote was counted would be to verify whether or not your state provides a ballot tracking platform. One popular system some states use is Ballottrax. The website features a section where you can check if your county, specifically, offers ballot tracking through the platform, specifically.
If your county doesn't use this platform, that doesn't mean they don't offer another way to tell if your absentee ballot was counted. First, you should peruse your state's Board of Elections (BOE) or Secretary of State website, as most will have a "ballot status" or "ballot tracking" page — likely in the same place where you requested your absentee ballot — where you can enter your voting information (i.e. your name and date of birth) and check your ballot's status. For example, when I vote absentee in my home state of Louisiana, I check my ballot's status via voterportal.sos.la.gov. After entering my ID information, I'm offered a variety of links, one of which reads "check absentee ballot status." From there, I can tell when the ballot was mailed, when it was received, and whether or not it's been counted yet. This is incredibly important, as we head into day two of the election, with a clear winner yet to be decided as of Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Outside of absentee ballots, there are also provisional ballots, which aren't immediately counted, given that election officials have to verify whether you are, indeed, eligible to vote. There are myriad reasons someone might fill out a provisional ballot on election day, but the process for checking its status is a bit muddier. Again, the process will largely vary state to state. In this case, it's best to check with an election official as you fill out your provisional ballot for guidance on how to follow up on its status. If you already cast a provisional ballot, you'll want to contact your state's BOE department and inquire about whether or not your provisional ballot was counted. Ballotpedia offers a useful breakdown of state provisional ballot guidelines, assuming they offer this option.
Finally, if you voted in person the old-fashioned way, there's sadly not a way for you to confirm after the fact whether or not your vote was counted. That said, experts have said the chances of an in-person vote (aside from provisional ballots) not counting are slim. "If you vote in person, the only thing that could happen is a meteor could strike your polling place five minutes after you leave, and then your vote wouldn’t get counted," Paul Mitchell, vice president of the California voting data firm Political Data Inc., told The Huffington Post.
Hypothetical meteors aside, you're certainly not alone in wanting to feel a little more certain your vote was counted, given all that's happened during an incredibly tumultuous year. As long as you've followed the provided directions and timelines for your absentee ballot, voted in person, or followed up with your provisional ballot, there's a solid chance your voice was heard.