Waiting in line to vote can be a drag — especially if you have places to be on Election Day like school or work. If you’re looking for a way to make voting easier, that’s relatable. But voting online in the 2018 midterms might not be the way to go — even if you’re one of the very few U.S. voters who has this option.
The main reason that you’d be able to vote online is because you’re a voter that falls under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). This law covers U.S. citizens who are serving members of the Uniformed Services — Army, Navy, Air Force, etc. — and the Merchant Marine. It also covers those serving the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration count, as well as all the eligible family members of U.S. citizens residing outside the United States with the aforementioned people.
Odds are, that’s not you. So, you’ll not be able to vote online. The one other exception in just a few jurisdictions is if you’re a voter with disabilities. In King County, Washington, for example, you can mark your ballot online if you’re blind or would otherwise have trouble filling out a ballot on your own confidentially (though you still need to submit it separately from the system). All of Utah allows email and fax submission of ballots for the disabled.
If you are covered under the UOCAVA, here’s a complete list of the 50 states and DC compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures that shows what options you have to return your ballot. Some allow email, others also fax. And there are still 19 states that do not allow your ballot to be transmitted electronically in any way — it’s good old snail mail for you.
If you’re a UOCAVA voter in West Virginia, this year there’s a novelty. You can submit you ballot using a smartphone application. It’s completely optional, but if you decide on this option, the state emails you a link to download the app. Then you verify it’s you with a form of identification. Next, you can vote and submit the ballot using your fingerprint, Face ID, or however you unlock your smartphone. Finally, election officials electronically “open” your ballot on election night.
All that said, even if electronic submission is an option for you, you might want to reconsider. Experts have said that online submission is vulnerable to hacks that could change your vote or erase it all together.
A September report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggested that online voting is not the way to go for U.S. elections in the immediate future — even if it would encourage a higher turnout. “Currently, no known technology can guarantee the secrecy, security, and verifiability of a marked ballot transmitted over the Internet,” a summary of the report reads.
But don’t fear for the voting lines because in many states you still have other options, particularly early voting. To check that option, all you need to do is go to Vote.org’s special tool. You fill in your address and out pops the address of an early voting center — if they exist in your precinct.
So regardless of your online options, vote in person or by mail if you can — and early is always an option.