Washington, D.C., mail-in voting: What to know

DC Board of Elections earlier this year decided to send all voters mail-in ballots

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As the United States prepares to hold a presidential election in the midst of a deadly pandemic, jurisdictions across the country have adjusted how they are holding their elections to minimize in-person contact at the polls, including Washington, D.C.

After D.C. struggled with its June primary but managed to hold the election without any serious controversy, the D.C. Board of Elections (DCBOE) announced it would hold its November election as a universal mail-in election -- meaning all active voters will receive mail-in ballots without needing to request them. The move was endorsed by the city council and the mayor. The DCBOE said it would work with a private mailing house to ensure the ballots get to all voters.

The fact the district is sending mail-in ballots to all voters does not mean there aren't in-person voting options, however. Ballots will start to be mailed in early October, after which point voters can return them in the mail or via dropbox. The week before the election there will also be in-person early voting and there will be polling places open in D.C. on Election Day as well.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ABSENTEE VOTING AND UNIVERSAL VOTE-BY-MAIL? 

The DCBOE is putting an emphasis on early voting to space out when voters will be at the polls and reduce coronavirus spread. It even is using Capital One Arena, the home of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, as an early voting location.

"The board of elections in D.C. is laser-focused on making sure that we have a safe and effective voting process, voting experience during this general election. One of the things that we're doing is we're asking citizens and really the entire public to consider this election week," Michael Bennett, the DCBOE chairman, said in a press conference last week. "One of the things that's really important to make sure is we spread out voting in ways that will allow for people to vote quickly and effectively. We are expecting record-shattering turnout for this general election."

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According to the DCBOE, voters must register by Oct. 13 in order to have their ballot mailed to them. If a voter does not receive a ballot by Oct. 21 they should expect to vote in-person. Voters can vote in-person at an early voting location or on Election Day. There are same-day registration options for voters who vote early in-person or on Election Day.