2020 election: Can you change your vote after casting it?

Andrew Naughtie
·2-min read
Voting early in Washington State (AP)
Voting early in Washington State (AP)

Reports that Americans started searching online with the words “change my vote” after the last presidential debate appear to have reached Donald Trump.

“Strongly Trending (Google) since immediately after the second debate is CAN I CHANGE MY VOTE?” he tweeted. “This refers changing it to me [sic]. The answer in most states is YES. Go do it. Most important Election of your life!”

Mr Trump has no evidence that the searches imply voters are switching to him, and because Google Trends only provides relative data, the actual number of searches for “change my vote” is not known. But what about his claim that “the answer in most states is YES?”

The short answer is that like all aspects of voting early or by mail, it depends where you live.

Several states do allow postal voters to cancel or change votes they’ve already mailed in, and among them are some of this year’s key swing states.

A postal voter in Michigan, for instance, “can spoil their ballot by submitting a written and signed request to their city or township clerk”. Depending on how they go about this, they can do so any time up to and including the day before the election.

Authorities in Wisconsin, another crucial state for Mr Trump, say they have been fielding a lot of requests for information on how to change ballots; most absentee voters have just days left to ask that their ballot be spoiled so they can cast a new one.

Other states that allow voters to change their minds before the day include the ultra-safe Democratic strongholds of New York and Washington States. However, most of the larger swing states – Florida, for one – take the position that a mail vote cast cannot be altered. Other states do allow voters to change postal ballots they’ve already cast – but in some of them, the deadline has already passed.

Minnesota voters, for instance, had until two weeks before Election Day to cancel their ballot with the election office that mailed it to them. That means any Minnesotans googling it because of what they witnessed at the debate will have been disappointed.

Predicting how mail-in voting will affect the election is harder than usual because millions more people than usual will be using postal ballots to avoid the risks of queuing at polling stations during the coronavirus pandemic.

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How to vote by mail in the 2020 US election