Absentee and Mail-in Ballot Debate: Are They Same or Different?

Is it good to deploy the options of absentee and mail-in ballot in the presidential race 2020? Let’s shed some light on the matter here.


United States Electoral College
United States Electoral College

The United States of America has surpassed the figure of five million cases of the coronavirus. With hundreds of deaths and thousands affected every day, the country is facing a real and dangerous crisis.

By examining the figures, it seems that the country will take a lot more time to put an end to the pandemic, and even longer to recover from the damage done with it.

The situation is made more complicated as the presidential elections of 2020 that are just around the corner. The people of the United States have to elect their new President in November.

Health experts and policymakers believe that the election could provide a new spark to the pandemic, and the situation could get even worse than the current status quo. Due to this danger, the options of absentee and mail-in ballot are being considered and are likely to be deployed in the presidential race.

The proposition of these options has sparked a new debate around the country. Many people believe that these two are the same. But that is not the case. This article will help you to differentiate between the absentee ballot and mail-in ballots. Let’s just start by defining these two terms.

What are absentee ballots?

Absentee and Mail-in Ballot Debate: Are They Same or Different?
Absentee Ballot

Absentee voting or vote by mail is an electoral process that allows a person to vote if he or she cannot vote in person.

This system of voting is being used in America and many European countries. The absentee ballots are cast using mail, although special provisions are taken to ensure the legitimacy and secrecy of the vote.

The jurisdictions of these provisions vary from country to country and state to state.

There are some rules for absentee ballot rules. An absentee ballot can be requested by sending an application to the state government. The final decision of acceptance or rejection of the application in the made by the government. Election officials send an absentee ballot to those individuals whose application is accepted.

The voters then have to fill out the ballot with their candidate choices and return it by mail. The election office sends an absentee ballot to all of the following:

  • Those living outside the country, or are not in the country on the Election Day
  • Students studying outside the country
  • Military and overseas voters
  • Voters with illness or any type of disability
  • Prisoners who still qualify as voters
  • Individuals whose religious beliefs prevent them from voting in person

What are mail-in ballots?

A mail-in ballot, which is also known as an all-mail ballot, is also an electoral process through which a voter may cast his or her vote by mail instead of voting in person.

In this system, ballots are sent to all registered voters through the mail. The voters then have to complete the ballots and send them to the election office. They can also drop their vote in voting locations fora limited timeframe before Election Day.

Many states in the US use this method in their local elections. These states include Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Utah, and Colorado. Every voter who is registered to vote is sent this ballot, irrespective of any kind of discrimination.

Having defined both terms, now let us move towards the hot debate of differentiating between the two terms.

How an absentee ballot is different from a mail-in ballot

Absentee and Mail-in Ballot Debate: Are They Same or Different?
Sorting Mail-in Ballot

Many people believe that an absentee ballot and a mail-in ballot are the same things. That is why they are also used as interchangeable at various points. Yet, these two voting methods are very different from one another.

The first thing to be understood in this debate is that all election ballots sent using the mail are not mail-in ballots. An absentee ballot is also sent through the mail, but it cannot be considered a mail-in ballot.

Secondly, mail-in ballots are sent to every registered voter in the year of the election, but that is not the case in absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are sent only to those individuals who had specifically applied for an absentee ballot.

Finally, there are only certain persons who can qualify for an absentee ballot. You have to have a considerable problem or excuse to qualify for an absentee ballot. There are also no-excuse absentee ballots, but they are provided only to those who cannot come to vote in person due to an illness or disability, those serving in the army or are on official duty during the electoral process, those living outside the country, and those who are restricted by their religious or ethnic beliefs.

Many scholars and researchers believe that the difference between the absentee ballot and mail-in ballot is that of semantics. In some states, it is called absentee voting and in others mail-in ballots. But, that is not that case. As the above points clarify, absentee ballot and mail-in ballot are both different concepts having entirely separate processes.

Trump’s claim of voter Fraud in mail-in ballots

With the United States Presidential election in November and the coronavirus pandemic rising with each day, the election office is considering expanding the option of the mail-in ballot to be used throughout the country. Already being used as a voting method in many American states, the mail-in ballot seems to be the best option that could reduce the risk of virus spread.

After the announcement, President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the decision, saying that it can result in voter fraud. In his pressers and tweets, Donald Trump has claimed that the 2020 elections could be rigged if the election office uses mail-in ballots. On the other side, the president has been very positive about absentee ballots, saying that they could cause no harm. Mail-in ballots, in his view, pose a very serious threat to the country.


It is wrong to say that there is a high possibility of voting fraud using mail-in ballots since the studies show otherwise.

There are several studies conducted about voting fraud in America, and nearly all of them concluded that voter fraud in the US is a very rare case.

Experts also believe that it is very unlikely that elections could be rigged through mail-in ballots.

In this scenario, these claims by the American president are seen by many as a face-saving act, as he is already losing many important states, including those that helped him win the presidency in 2016. 

Read more about Absentee ballots

  1. The Crisis of Absentee Ballots in New York is a Warning for November
  2. How Did Absentee Ballots in Virginia End up in a Catastrophe
  3. Absentee Ballots of Michigan: Where C is a New A!
  4. Absentee Ballot in Pennsylvania: When Messy is an Understatement!


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