An Easy Way to Solve the Mail-In Vote Dilemma


There is one simple thing you can do to help ensure your vote gets counted.

Vote As Soon as You Can

  1. One thing Democrats could do—with basically no strategic downside—is to hammer home the message that voters should ask for and return their mail ballots as early as possible, which makes it more likely they'll be included in tallies on election night.
  2. In most states, mail ballots received by Election Day will be counted with other ballots on election day; in some states they'll even be counted first, in fact. It's ballots postmarked by E-Day but not yet received (allowed in some states but not all) that can cause a late shift.
  3. But if Democrats return their ballots sooner, the late shift could be mitigated or even reversed. There's maybe the slightest hint of that already in North Carolina, where Democrats represent 49% of absentee ballot *requests* but 54% of ballots *returned* so far.

The above courtesy of a Nate Silver Twitter Thread.

Some states allow early voting in person. That's also a good solution for those worried about lines and Covid.

There were some objections to Silver's Tweets. One concerned Ohio where if you request a mail-in ballot you have to vote mail-in or by a provisional vote if you change your mind.

I fail to understand the objection. Request a ballot early and vote early if you want to vote by mail. If you delay too long, then vote in person.

Four Pivotal States Likely Will Not be Called Election Evening

Please consider Why Four Pivotal Swing States Likely Won’t Be Called On Election Night

  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that ballots can arrive as late as Nov. 6 and still count as long as no evidence (e.g., a postmark) exists that they were mailed after Election Day (Nov. 3).
  • A state judge in Michigan decreed that ballots can be counted as long as they are postmarked by the day before the election (Nov. 2) and received by Nov. 17.
  • A federal judge ordered Wisconsin to count absentee ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 as long as they arrive by Nov. 9.
  • And North Carolina reached a tentative court settlement with plaintiffs that, among other things, would allow ballots to count as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov. 12. (However, the settlement still needs to be approved by a judge before it officially goes into effect.)

Legal Challenges to State Rulings

The GOP legislative leaders in Wisconsin have already appealed that decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Republicans say they plan to take the Pennsylvania decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Potential Impact

The rulings, if upheld, and they should be, would give a tiny boost to Democrats.

If the challenges are upheld late enough, it could impact the outcome of the election in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.

Either way, it increases the odds we do not know who won on election night.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina are swing states.  If all four go uncalled on election night, then we likely will not have a declared winner. 

Wisconsin Twist

The Wisconsin appeal will be heard by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.  

That court includes Judge Amy Coney Barrett. It's unknown whether Barrett will wind up on the panel that hears the Wisconsin voting case.


The Pennsylvania Case may be much ado over nothing. 

Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to weigh in only on the state court’s ruling pushing back the deadline for mail ballots to arrive. The state court ruled that such ballots must be counted if they are postmarked by Nov. 3 — and even if they are not, “unless a preponderance of the evidence” shows that the ballots were mailed after Election Day. 

Republicans argued that the ruling allows ballots to be counted even if they are cast after Election Day. “The Elections Clause of the United States Constitution vests the authority to regulate the times, places, and manner, of federal elections to Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, subject only to alteration by Congress, not this Court,” the Republicans wrote to the state court on Tuesday. The Hill first reported the filing. Democrats said they will oppose the GOP’s efforts to delay implementation of the new ballot deadline.

There are two issues in the Pennsylvania lawsuit. The first involves ballots postmarked by November 3. Those should be counted. And if they are, the second challenge is trivial.

The second issue pertains to counting late ballots unless a preponderance of the evidence” shows that the ballots were mailed after Election Day.

The percentage of ballots with a missing or illegible postmark received after election day has to be miniscule. 

 In Pennsylvania you can easily request a mail-in ballot. So the simple remedy is to vote early.

Main-In Ballots Automatically Sent

Mail-in Ballots Automatically Sent

Mail-in Applications Automatically Sent

Mail-in Applications Automatically Sent

All Voters Can Request a Mail-in Ballot

All Voters Can Request a Mail-in Ballot

Voters Need an Excuse (Covid Does Not Count)

Voters Need an Excuse

Mail in Voting Rules

The above maps from NPR's Mail-In Voting Rules By State.

Except for five states that do not rate to figure prominently on election night (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Indiana) voters have ample time to vote early by mail if they wish to do so.

Of those five states, it is conceivable, but not likely for Democrats to flip Texas. 

Some Texas polls are within margins of error but Trump has about a 75% chance of winning that state by my estimation.

What Happens if Trump Refuses to Leave?

Please consider What Happens if Trump Refuses to Leave?

The concern is not about Trump refusing to leave if he loses. Rather, it's about steps he could take or states could take to declare the election invalid or come up with two sets of electors. 

Trump and the states are not powerless. Pennsylvania could become a powderkeg if the vote count is very close. 

94% Say Their Mind is Made Up

Note that In the Presidential Election, 94% Say Their Mind is Made Up

If your mind is made up, then there is no excuse (except in 5 states) for not getting a mail-in ballot and voting early.

If you wish to decide later, then do so early enough that mail-in delays do not rate to be a problem or just vote in person.

Strong Advantage Biden

Made up minds benefit the person in the lead. 

Like it or not, it is preposterous to suggest anything but a clear and substantial Biden lead. 

Biden's lead is not insurmountable, however. Trump can still put it out. 

But Biden is a solid favorite now and Trump needs a dramatic late reversal to pull out a victory.

Trump's challenges on mail-in voting (and other nonsensical Tweets) may very well be a huge effort to vote early.

The main irony is that early voting includes some who would not bother showing up on a bad-weather day to vote in person on election day. 

In that regard, Trump's Tweets are counterproductive for him winning, but he just cannot shut his mouth.


Comments (91)
No. 1-18
Captain Ahab
Captain Ahab

At the risk of being kicked off Mish's site: Why does this seem to be about what Democrat voters can do? I must be missing a nuance. Why not all voters?


37 days till election. And after this election, nothing will likely be done about the process for the next one and lo and behold we start the cycle all over again.

18 days till Boris Brexit Bonanza.

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again," Trump said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends." "They had things in there about election days and what you do and all sorts of drawbacks. They had things that were just totally crazy."


"It's unknown whether Barrett will wind up on the panel that hears the Wisconsin voting case". She'd side-step that one in a hurry, to avoid the publicity and conflict of interest accusations.
Canon 1: A Judge Should Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
Canon 2: A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All Activities
Canon 3: A Judge Should Perform the Duties of the Office Fairly, Impartially and Diligently
Canon 4: A Judge May Engage in Extrajudicial Activities That are Consistent With the Obligations of Judicial Office
Canon 5: A Judge Should Refrain From Political Activity
Compliance with the Code of Conduct
Applicable Date of Compliance. March 18 2019

Lance Manly
Lance Manly

Yeah, it looks like Mr. 3d chess is screwing up to win the election straight up by getting everybody riled up to vote. High turnouts don't work well for R's. Maybe he has made the judgement that he can't win outright so needs to find some way to steal the election. One open question is what this does to the Senate races. Graham has a weak lead, and no money left. SC looks like it has straightforward mail in voting and in person early voting.


Trump has managed to convince some of the electorate we have election fraud despite lack of evidence. This country is clearly becoming stupid. Just watched a clip of Republican lawyer Ginsberg discuss. Its absurd we've even elevated this non issue to a debate on how to fix it


Good piece, Mish. The four states you mentioned really, really need to make some changes so that this potential problem isn't a problem in some future election. Too late this time, unfortunately.

I will be voting in person. I recommend it. If I'm still breathing, I will show up this time.


An inept economic illiterate, and a dysfunctional dementia patient. Such choices. HLM was right, though. The guaranteed outcome is certain. The great American voter will have succeeded in adorning the Whitehouse with a downright moron, either way.


Well maybe we should all vote for the straw man he’s a nice old man. Besides someone from the bureaucracy will step up and tell Joe what to say and do. Because Joe will be like our” Big Brother” he’ll take care of us make sure we have something to eat some were to sleep and health care. Boy that sounds GREAT! Rite. BUT and don’t you just hate when a but comes in like that you know its bad news coming. BUT that is the description of LIVESTOCK! Taken care of, that makes my blood boil. I won’t be part of that heard. The remark big brother is from George Orwell’s book 1984. Oh straw, when I was a kid one of my chores on the farm was to spread straw in the barn my dad had 100 beef cattle so that is one thing straw is good for sucking up cattle s**t and yes if your making mud bricks it binds them to. If I woudn't have put that in about bricks someone would have braged how strong straw is. I dont think that part pertains to Joe thank you


Help! I live in NC and have already received my mail in ballot but I still don't know who to vote for- Biden or Trump?! I'm annoyed at the democrats for the delays on more stimulus and for wanting to spend so much. I worry that if Biden is elected there will be massive overspending by the government. Although the spending would likely benefit me and my family I'm on the fence. Also concerned about the protests continuing if Trump wins. I disagree with the protesters but feel they won't stop until Trump is gone. Don't know what to do.... not vote if undecided or just go ahead and make up my mind? Voted for Trump last time. I'm registered as independent.

Lance Manly
Lance Manly

" I worry that if Biden is elected there will be massive overspending by the government."

You do realize that in three years the administration brought back trillion dollar deficits, right?


The fact that we are even discussing these things is proof that Trump SHOULD have been removed from office and the fact that he was not rests upon the shoulders of the GOP which "tried" him without calling any witnesses.

Given this why would anyone still vote for any republican anywhere?

As far as mail in ballots go, I think most democrats now see that even if they requested and got one they will not vote it but instead not risk its not counting and go to the polls in person anyway, in spite of the threats by republicans. I know I will be going to my local polling place and casting my ballot in person.

Part of my reason is this, my signature looks different enough each time I sign that a corrupt election official selectively deleting dem ballots can use that as an excuse to pull mine - as if a corrupt election official in Florida actually needs an excuse. There was a time before chip enabled debit and credit cards when we had to sign for almost every transaction like checks, but in the years since maybe once every other month at most. I can barely even hold a pen these days no less have a signature look like it used to.

If I have to fight my way into the local Methodist Church that serves as this precinct's polling station through a mob of armed redneck republicans then I will, I am not going to be denied my part in getting rid of Trump and restoring democracy to the US.


I don't understand why a reasoning person would choose to vote before any of the debates. Can Biden still handle himself? Will Harris be any better than Trump?


Easy Solution.
Just copy Colorado's system.
No one in my state is worried about their vote being counted.
75% just drop their ballots into big steel boxes.


What a mess. I don’t personally think mail is voting is a good idea at all. It centralizes a process and fewer people controlling more power is never a good thing.

It’s pretty simple. You walk up, you show a document with your name on it and you vote. If you don’t have ONE document with your name on it you don’t deserve to get a vote.

Democracy never works for very long. It had a good run but I expect it’s time is coming to an end. Humans always cheer their own demise.



Do Not Respond to Trolls
I have a simple mechanism to delete every comment a person makes and if if I decide someone is a Troll I do just that.
Any responses get automatically deleted as well.
DontTreadOnMe is the latest - Bye



I tolerate a lot of dissent but direct personal attacks - Goodbye



Nevada and Colorado are not going Blue because of mail-in voting.

NV is going blue because of an influx of people moving there from elsewhere.
CO is an environmental state.
Don't be surprised to see some states in the NorthEast where the majority is strongly white go the other way.


Which other countries do mail-in voting? Curious. Foreigners I know used to laugh out-loud about not requiring voter-ID. Now they're falling over and rolling on the ground with giggles.

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