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Plan ahead to vote by mail

Concern over use of mail-in ballots for the November general election is building. Critics of the process fall into two categories: those who worry about voter fraud and those who insist many Americans may be “disenfranchised” by the system.

Indeed, fraud is something of a concern — but it is one election officials in some states are taking effective steps to counter.

Failure of many ballots to be counted, not just in the race for president but in many local affairs ranging from state legislators to local tax measures, is more worrisome.

If that concerns you, take heart. This is one potential problem that leaves voters squarely in the driver’s seat.

A significant number of mailed-in absentee ballots are not counted during any election in which they are employed. That has been so for many years.

Why?

There are various reasons. One is delays in Postal Service delivery of ballots to and from voters.

Election results cannot be delayed until there is no possibility late ballots may still be lying around post offices. States have deadlines for receiving them if they are to be counted.

Local and state election officials also have safeguards for delayed mail-in ballots. Voters are given plenty of time to request absentee ballots, receive them, fill them out and get them back by Election Day.

So, if you plan to vote by mail this year, allow plenty of time. Request your absentee ballot on the very first day you are eligible to do so.

Fill it out immediately and get it back in the mail. Even if the Postal Service is — how to say this diplomatically? — less than expeditious in handling your ballot, chances are it still will arrive in time to be counted if you act quickly.

Incorrectly filled out ballots, sometimes because of illegible handwriting, are another reason some mail-in ballots are not counted. So if you plan to vote that way, read and follow the instructions. Ensure your handwriting can be read. Surely your vote is important enough to take a moment or two to get your ballot right.

No doubt mail-in ballots will be the subject of enormous controversy during weeks leading up to Election Day — and, sadly, afterward.

You need not be part of the mess. If you vote by mail, do so quickly and follow all the rules.

Do so, and you will provide the best insurance against being “disenfranchised” on Election Day.

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