Vote by mail is awesome, so long as precautions are taken to ensure the vote is legitimate. Oregon has been doing it since 1987, and it’s one of the few things both sides of the aisle agree upon here. It works, and it works well.
Here, it is easy to register to vote. If you got a driver’s license, permit or ID card in Oregon, you registered. If you don’t use the DMV, you can download a form and register in person. Once you are registered, you can do everything online: Switch party affiliation, etc. Our primaries are closed, so you have to affiliate with a party if you want to vote in them.
Ballot packages arrive a couple weeks ahead of the election. They include a ballot, an outer envelope for mailing and an inner envelope for privacy.
There are clear instructions on how the ballot should be completed. In my county, the ballots are like filling out a computerized test. Use a black or blue pen, fill in the oval next to your choice completely. I suspect most ballots that are discarded are because these instructions are not properly followed.
If you mess up your ballot, simply call the elections office and request a replacement.
Ballots cannot be forwarded from one address to another. If you move, you need to update your voter registration.
When you complete your ballot, you can use the privacy envelope if you choose, or not. Your ballot will be counted either way. You must sign the outer envelope of your ballot exactly as your name is printed on the envelope. This is a security measure used to verify identity. If there is a dispute about whether you actually signed the envelope, the county will notify you and you have 14 days after the election to prove you were the person who signed the envelope. Similarly, if you forget to sign the outer envelope, you will be contacted and have 14 days after the election to come to the elections office and sign it.
You can either mail your completed ballot (postage is prepaid) or you can physically take it to a ballot drop box. The ballot must be physically received by a county elections office or in an official drop box by 8:00 p.m. on the date of the election. Postmarks don’t matter. (For this reason, I tend to use the ballot drop boxes.)
You can verify that your ballot has been received/counted online. There is no disclosure of how you voted, but you will know your ballot made it to the elections office and was counted.
Obviously there is a paper record of your vote should a recount be required.
It’s easy, convenient and drives better turnout than most other methods. There really is no reason to be critical of voting by mail, assuming you can trust your elections officials. And if you can’t, your state has got bigger problems than vote by mail.