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VERIFY: You should mail ballots in at least 7 days before election day

A viral social media post claimed you must send in your mail-in ballots at least 14 days before election day. The USPS gives you a little more wiggle room than that.

The coronavirus pandemic has led many Americans to consider their mail-in and absentee ballot voting options for remaining primaries and November's general election. 

While the presidential election is Nov. 3, a number of social media posts suggest the "real" election day for mail-in voters is Oct. 20, because every ballot needs 14 days to be counted.

Chrissy Teigen recently shared that information with her more than 30 million Instagram followers. In the post, it claimed the info came directly from the United States Postal Service (USPS).

But it turns out that isn’t exactly what the postal service said.

THE QUESTION

Did the postal service say election day is really Tuesday, Oct. 20, if you're considering mail-in voting? 

THE ANSWER

No. The USPS recommends voters put their ballots in the mail at least one week before their state’s deadline. 

However, the postal service does recommend requesting your mail-in ballot at least 15 days before election day. That would give state or local election officials one week to deliver your ballot to you and another week for you to send it back. 

WHAT WE FOUND

A spokesperson for the USPS told the VERIFY team in an email, “The Postal Service recommends that domestic, non-military voters mail their ballots at least one week prior to their state’s due date to allow for timely receipt by election officials. The Postal Service also recommends that voters contact local election officials for information about deadlines.” In a press release from May, USPS said the same recommendation that voters put their ballots in the mail "at least 1 week prior due to the date established by state law." 

Now the note about deadlines is important. States have different rules for when mail-in ballots need to be received in order for them to count. Vote.org shows some states set their deadlines for election day, while other states say a mail-in ballot must be postmarked by election day and received within a few days of election day.

“Voters must use First-Class Mail or an expedited level of service to return their completed ballots,” USPS added in its statement to VERIFY. “We recommend that jurisdictions immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to the election date.”

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The recommendation that mail-in voters request their ballots at least 15 days before election day may have contributed to some of the confusion. This recommendation from the USPS refers to the process of requesting a blank ballot to fill out and vote with. Vote.org also lists the various deadlines state-by-state to request mail-in ballots.

Regardless, it’s good to request your ballot as soon as possible, complete it, and then send it back to your local or state election office as soon as you’re able to. 

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