Con­fused? A guide to elec­tion terms

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Ryan Teague Beckwith Ryan Teague Beckwith is a Bloomberg News writer.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump fre­quently says there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween ab­sen­tee vot­ing, which he once called “good” in a tweet, and mail­in vot­ing, which he has called “in­ac­cu­rate and fraud­u­lent.”

But the peo­ple who run elec­tions don’t make that dis­tinc­tion.

Though the terms vary from state­to­state, as do the laws, the terms “ab­sen­tee vot­ing,” “mail­in vot­ing” and even “univer­sal vote by mail” have dif­fer­ent mean­ings than the ones Trump has as­signed to them, caus­ing some con­fu­sion about the Novem­ber elec­tion. States are fac­ing a sharp in­crease in re­quests for mail­in vot­ing as the coro­n­avirus leaves vot­ers un­will­ing to wait in lines or crowded precincts to vote.

But the pres­i­dent has al­leged, with­out ev­i­dence, that the process is ripe for fraud. He has raised con­cerns — even ques­tioned whether the Nov. 3 elec­tion should take place that day — over the le­git­i­macy of the elec­tion as he trails Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den in the polls.

Trump con­tin­ued his at­tack on Mon­day, say­ing at a White House news con­fer­ence that univer­sal mail­in vot­ing, where ab­sen­tee bal­lots are sent au­to­mat­i­cally to all vot­ers in a state, was go­ing to be a “dis­as­ter” and “a great em­bar­rass­ment to our coun­try.”

A quick guide to how the terms are most com­monly used by elec­tions of­fi­cials:

⏩ Ab­sen­tee vot­ing: This is for peo­ple who are “ab­sent” from their homes on Elec­tion Day as well as those with dis­abil­i­ties, the el­derly or with other ex­cuses for not be­ing able to vote in per­son. To­day, res­i­dents of all 50 states can vote ab­sen­tee, though in some places an ex­cuse is re­quired.

⏩ In­per­son vot­ing: As ab­sen­tee vot­ing be­came more wide­spread, elec­tions di­rec­tors be­gan re­fer­ring to vot­ing at a polling place as “in­per­son vot­ing.”

⏩ No­ex­cuse ab­sen­tee vot­ing: Res­i­dents of 34 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., al­low ab­sen­tee vot­ing with­out an ex­cuse by law, while oth­ers have loos­ened re­quire­ments due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

⏩ Vote­by­mail: Be­cause most vot­ers in a no­ex­cuse ab­sen­tee bal­lot states are no longer “ab­sent,” many elec­tions of­fi­cials have be­gun us­ing the term “vote­by­mail” or “mail­in bal­lots” as a catch­all term for bal­lots sent through the mail.

⏩ Univer­sal vote­by­mail: As vote­by­mail be­came more pop­u­lar, a hand­ful of mostly Western states did away with the re­quire­ment to re­quest a mail­in bal­lot, opt­ing to au­to­mat­i­cally send ev­ery reg­is­tered voter a bal­lot.

⏩ Early vot­ing: Many states also al­low vot­ers to show up at the elec­tions of­fice or other early vot­ing cen­ters in the days be­fore an elec­tion, fill out a mail­in bal­lot and hand it in. Some states call this “early vot­ing,” but oth­ers re­fer to this as “in­per­son ab­sen­tee vot­ing.”

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