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Expecting a deluge of absentee mail-in ballots come November, the United States Postal Service has repeatedly warned voters and election officials in 46 states — including Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama — that the agency can't guarantee coronavirus-weary voters their mail-in ballots will arrive in time to be counted in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Below is what you need to know to ensure your absentee mail-in ballot gets delivered in a timely manner. 

In Tennessee: 

Who can vote by mail/absentee?

Under a Sept. 9 U.S. District Court Order, Tennessee voters who meet one of the following requirements may vote by mail without appearing in person, including first-time voters:

You are sixty (60) years of age or older.

You will be outside the county where you are registered during the early voting period and all day on Election Day.

You are hospitalized, ill or physically disabled and unable to appear at your polling place to vote (this includes persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it). For a list of underlying health conditions that make a person more susceptible, go to bit.ly/more-risk. A physician's statement is not required to check this box.

You are the caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled (this includes caretakers for persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it). A physician's statement is not required to check this box.

You or your spouse are a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county where you are registered.

You reside in a nursing home, assisted living facility or home for the aged outside your county of residence.

You are a candidate for office in the election.

You are observing a religious holiday that prevents you from voting in person during the early voting period and on Election Day.

You serve as an Election Day official or as a member or employee of the election commission.

You will be unable to vote in-person due to jury duty.

You have a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place.

You or your spouse possess a valid commercial drivers license (CDL) or Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card and you will be working outside the state or county of registration during the open hours of early voting and Election Day and have no specific out-of-county or out-of-state address to which mail may be sent or received during such time.

You are a member of the military or are an overseas citizen.

You are on the permanent absentee list.

How do eligible voters register for mail-in/absentee ballots?

To vote absentee by-mail, under state law, voters can submit a written request for an absentee ballot by mail, fax, or e-mail to their local election commission by October 27.

Request your absentee ballot at bit.ly/tn-absent-vote.

How do voters return mail-in/absentee ballots?

Absentee ballots must be returned by mail (USPS, FedEx, or UPS). Ballots must be received by the election commission no later than poll closing time on Election Day. Tennessee law does not allow by- mail ballots to be hand-delivered. Ballots must be mailed.

(READ MORE: What you need to know to vote in the Tennessee general election in November)

In Georgia: 

Who can vote by mail?

Unlike Tennessee, voters do not need to have a reason to vote by mail in Georgia. Any eligible voter who is registered can request a mail-in ballot.

How do eligible voters register for mail-in/absentee ballots?

Ballots can be requested online with a new feature from the secretary of state's office, at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov. The secretary of state's office launched the website to help handle record numbers of voters expected to cast an absentee ballot in this year's presidential election.

An online, printable version for a mail-in ballot can be also found at bit.ly/ga-print-ballot.

How do voters return mail-in/absentee ballots?

Ballots can be dropped off at county election offices or delivered by mail. Ballots can also be delivered in person on Election Day by 7 p.m., before polls close.

Family members may hand deliver a ballot for a disabled person until polls close on Election Day, but that is the only stipulation for delivering someone else's ballot. A ballot may not be handled by anyone other than the individual to whom it was issued, not even spouses.

Mailed ballots must be at the post office by 7 p.m. on the day of the election, but because of recent delays with the postal service, it's highly recommended to get ballots in as soon as possible.

(READ MORE: What you need to know to vote in the Georgia general election in November)

In Alabama: 

Who can vote by mail/absentee ballot?

The secretary of state's office urges voters who are concerned about contracting or spreading the coronavirus to apply for and cast an absentee ballot.

A voter may also cast an absentee ballot if he or she:

— Expects to be absent from the county on Election Day.

— Is ill or has a physical disability that prevents a trip to the polling place.

— Is a registered Alabama voter living outside the county, such as a member of the armed forces, a voter employed outside the U.S., a college student, or a spouse or child of such a person.

— Is an appointed election officer or poll watcher at a polling place other than his or her regular polling place.

— Expects to work a required shift, 10 hours or more, that coincides with polling hours.

— Is a caregiver for a family member to the second degree of kinship by affinity or consanguinity and the family member is confined to his or her home.

— Is currently incarcerated in prison or jail and has not been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude.


How do eligible voters apply for mail-in/absentee ballots?

Absentee ballot applications can be downloaded at bit.ly/al-absent or requested by visiting or calling the local Absentee Election Manager's office, listed at bit.ly/al-managers. Voters may also contact the Secretary of State's office at 334-242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.

There is also an instructional video on how to apply for an absentee ballot on the state website.

Due to the declared states of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic, any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to them.

In the case none of the boxes are appropriate, voters can check the box which reads: "I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls."

A government-issued ID is required.

Voters who are eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until Nov. 3 to postmark an absentee ballot.

Due to recently witnessed delays with the U.S. Postal Service, the secretary of state urges voters interested in returning their ballot by mail to submit their applications for absentee ballots now. Voters can send their absentee ballots by commercial carrier in addition to U.S. mail. No absentee ballot application may be mailed in the same envelope as another voter's absentee ballot application.


How do voters return mail-in/absentee ballots?

The absentee ballot comes with three envelopes; one plain (the secrecy envelope), one with an affidavit or oath printed on the outside and one plain pre-addressed envelope, (the outer envelope). Once the voter casts the ballot, the procedure is as follows:

— Seal the ballot in the plain envelope.

— Place the plain envelope inside the accompanying affidavit envelope.

— Seal the affidavit envelope and complete the affidavit that is on the outside of the envelope.

— Sign the affidavit and have the signature witnessed by either a notary public or two witnesses 18 years of age or older.

— Note that an absentee ballot cannot be counted unless the affidavit is notarized or has the signatures of two witnesses.

The voter has only the following legal ways to return the absentee ballot:

— Forward the absentee ballot by U.S. Mail.

— Forward the absentee ballot by commercial carrier.

— Personally hand their own absentee ballot to the absentee election manager, or delivers by a designee in the case of emergency absentee voting.

An absentee ballot returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Nov. 2 and received by the Absentee Election Manager no later than noon on Nov. 3.

If hand-delivered, the ballot must be in the office of the absentee election manager by the close of business, but no later than 5 p.m. CDT on Nov. 2.

(READ MORE: What you need to know to vote in the Alabama general election in November)

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