When thinking about who can “help” a voter with their absentee form, it’s important to distinguish “helping” (Explaining how to complete the form, sending voters a blank form, etc.) versus “assisting” (a legal definition that means physically completing the form on behalf of the voter — i.e., not simply distributing, explaining, setting up an online submission, etc.).
Absentee Ballot Request Form Completion & Helping
Anyone can show a voter how to use anyone’s cell phone to request a ballot, for example: (1) BY OPENING THE STATE BOARD’S PORTAL to electronically fill out, sign, and submit a request; or (2) by demonstrating how to take a cellphone photo of the voter’s completed paper request form and how to send by email to the appropriate county board.
- Unless qualified to assist a voter, a helper must not fill out the form, in part or whole, or hit send.
- The helper may photograph the request form, upload the photo to an email, type in the election board’s email address, and set up the submission or open the State Board’s portal, BUT the voter must hit Send or Submit.
- It is important to include a phone number on the form in case something is blurry or hard to read.
- Anyone can mass distribute BLANK request forms through mailings, hand distribution, emails/tweets/etc. with links to the form or with an attachment. Forms distributed in mass cannot be partially filled out, for example, with the voter’s name and address.
- Anyone can provide mass instructions for completing and submitting an absentee ballot request during a meeting, webinar, Zoom, website video, etc.
Who is qualified to assist a voter by mail?
A voter’s near relative or legal guardian may assist the voter to complete the absentee ballot request form and absentee ballot. A near relative is: your spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild. If a near relative or legal guardian is not available, any voter may receive assistance from another individual to complete the ballot, but only voters with a disability (including language difficulty) may receive assistance from another person to complete the request form. The assistant must sign and date the certificate in the proper place on the request form and absentee ballot envelope.
A person who assists a voter with completing their ballot may also serve as a witness. Voters should ensure that anyone assisting and witnessing a ballot is eligible to do so. This means the witness/assistant is over 18 years old and is not a candidate for office (unless the candidate is the voter’s near relative).
There are additional restrictions on who may assist and serve as a witness for voters who are patients in a facility that provides residential or in-patient health care (such as an assisted living facility or hospital). For these voters:
- If a near relative or legal guardian is not available, a voter in a facility may also request assistance from a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT). MATs can help voters complete their absentee ballots, and can also serve as a witness. Call your county board of elections to request MAT assistance. Look up your county BOE here.
- If neither a voter’s near relative nor verifiable legal guardian is available, and a MAT is not available within seven calendar days of a telephonic request for assistance, the voter may obtain assistance from anyone who is not (1) an owner, manager, director, or employee of the Facility; (2) an elected official; (3) a candidate for office; or (4) an officeholder in a political party or a campaign manager or treasurer for a candidate or political party. The voter may also not have anyone in categories (1) – (4) witness their absentee ballot.
Important: Only you (the voter), your legal guardian, or your near relative may return your absentee ballot, for example, to a county BOE, or Early Voting location. However, if you require assistance due to a disability in mailing your envelope containing your executed absentee ballot, you may direct that the sealed envelope be taken directly to the closest U.S. mail depository or mailbox by a person selected by the voter.