[Note: Everything mentioned below is based on the US electoral system.
Other countries too have mail-in voting. But their process and other elements may vary. So, this is strictly focused on the USA.]
Let’s start from the basics.
How do you cast vote?
You go to the polling station and cast your vote. Right?
But that’s not the only way to execute your voting rights.
What if you can’t walk? What if you’re injured? What if you’re very old? Or what if you’re out of your state and can’t make it to vote?
(Courtesy: NBC News)
In such circumstances, you can opt for postal voting or mail-in voting. This means, a postal ballot is sent to your house, you vote for your favorite candidate, and then you return this ballot.
(Courtesy: Voice of America)
Now there are two types of mail-in voting.
ONE, absentee vote. Two, mail-in option.
Absentee vote is a vote that you cast outside the polling booth. For a select range of reasons, you are sent a ballot to cast your vote.
Mail-in option is when you request the ballot to be sent to your house. You don’t necessarily need to give any reason for this. You can opt for it if you wish.
In this US Presidential Election
2020, owing to the pandemic situation, almost every state in the country is allowing voters to opt for vote-by-mail. This is to reduce crowd at polling booths and keep people safe.
Now, how to voters return this ballot after casting their vote at home?
People can EITHER send their ballots via United States Postal Service (USPS) OR they can drop the ballot themselves via secure
ballot drop box or at the voting center.
(Courtesy: The Herald Times)
In 2016 US Presidential Election, about 23.6 percent of all the votes were cast via mail ballots.
Of course, given the unprecedented situation we are in right now, a large population of the country will choose to vote through the mail in this US
Presidential Election. A lot of pressure is expected on USPS.
(Courtesy: The New York Times)
Donald Trump has gotten louder about the possible fraud that could happen with mail-in voting. (Perhaps to create a narrative that if he loses, his followers can believe that the election was rigged.) In reality, there is no evidence that postal ballots are less secure or could involve possible frauds. There are numerous checks and balances in place that make this system robust (like seeing that the ballot has come from voters’ registered address). In fact, per a 2017 study, the rate of voting fraud in the US is between 0.0004% and 0.0009%. So, despite the scepticism of President Donald Trump and his fans, postal ballots are usually assumed to be safe.
I hope this answer addressed your question!