Mail-in ballots are a good idea, especially in COVID times, but the current implementation in the US seems so obviously wrong.

Specifically, allowing ballots to be mailed on the final day guarantees that they can't be counted until several days later. The potential problems generated by that are obvious, even if one doesn't look at the current reality.

Setting the deadline a week earlier would have allowed a reasonable amount of time for the ballots to be delivered and processed, even if not actually counted until election day.

But that's not what they did, and it must have been a deliberate decision.

So what were the reasons for allowing ballots to be mailed up until the end of election day?

  • 10
    Hm? I think you have it the wrong way round. There is no real problem with the count taking a few days longer (other than people getting somewhat anxious). There is a problem with having part of the population vote a week earlier. What if there is major scandal or other campaign development in the final days? Nov 5, 2020 at 21:41
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    Some states don't accept anything after the polls close.
    – dandavis
    Nov 5, 2020 at 21:55
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    Nothing about allowing absentee ballots to be postmarked by election day in some states is new. I think you need to be more specific about what problems you are worried about. Nov 5, 2020 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


It's pretty simple, actually: Election day is "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November", and people have the right to cast their votes up to the closing of polls on that day.

Now, this differs based on State law. Some states do require ballots to be received by Election day, while others only require them to be postmarked by then. The decision is based on how State legislators, or courts in some cases, balance the desire for a quick result with the desire not to have people disenfranchised by delays at the post office.

Although the 24-hour news cycle has conditioned us to expect immediate results, there really is no reason elections need to be resolved right away. The final vote counts aren't needed until December 8th "Safe Harbor" Deadline, so the only downside of a few days' delay is stress among commentators and news junkies.


There are several good reasons to allow postal voting, beyond the convenience of the voters who don't have to stand in line on election day.

  • One is to allow voters who are out of the state on election day to cast their vote. Military deployed overseas, among others.
  • Another is to allow the sick to cast their vote.

The latter can come up quite unexpectedly, so deadlines should be as permissive as they can be while the integrity of the process is maintained. Someone who planned to vote in person half an hour before the polls close, and then stubs his toe, will be out of luck. But voters who catch the flu some days before the election should be able to have their vote counted.

  • Here (Sweden) people is required to either vote early at specific places (for example especially prepared facilities in municipial counties or at embassies abroad) and/or at voting day at a specific place (in my case the church's parish home), this at Sunday. Many swedes can't be in their home area at voting Sunday due to them being told to work at another part, so voting early is the only option. Nov 6, 2020 at 10:24

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