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What to Do If You Change Your Mind About Voting by Mail

Maybe you requested a mail ballot, but changed your mind and want to vote in person. This is what you can do if you’ve changed your mind about how you want to cast your vote.

If you’ve received a mail ballot but have changed your mind and want to vote in person, there’s some good news: You probably can do this.

The details differ from state to state. In some, you’ll be allowed to cast a regular ballot, and in others you’ll cast a “provisional” ballot, to be counted once election officials determine you haven’t already voted.

You may need to bring your mail ballot to the polling place or election office and hand it to election workers to have it voided, or destroy it yourself, and you might be required to sign an affidavit stating that you did not already vote by mail.

However, many election officials across the country encourage mail voters to stick with their original voting plan. “I encourage people who have received an absentee ballot to go ahead and vote that ballot,” said Jason Hancock, Idaho’s deputy secretary of state. “Spoiling ballots and issuing new ones adds to the cost and administrative burden of running an election and may slow down the voting process for anyone behind the voter in line at the polls.” With a week to go until Election Day, voters can still deliver mail ballots to county or town drop-box locations.

When you arrive at the polling place or voting site, it’s possible that poll workers may be able to consult a database to see if you returned a mail ballot, but such systems are not in place everywhere. Be prepared to explain your situation, and it’s a good idea to bring your mail ballot with you just in case.

State-by-State Guide

These guidelines can change, and there can be important differences in each county or town. Check with your local election office to confirm the procedure in your area before showing up to vote.

If your experience differs from the advice below, let us know — and be sure to sign up with our Electionland project to alert ProPublica if you experience any problems at the polls.

California

If you didn’t receive the mail ballot, don’t have it with you or election officials cannot verify that you haven’t already returned it, you will vote a provisional ballot.


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