Can You Really Change Your Vote?


Illustration for article titled Can You Really Change Your Vote?
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Some people have known how they’re going to vote in next week’s election—and, specifically, the presidential race—since Wednesday, November 9, 2016. Others somehow still remain undecided, even less than a week before Election Day. And then there are those who have already voted by mail, but have since changed their minds.

Of course, it’s not only the presidential race that could prompt a voting change of heart—people might be having second thoughts about a vote for a state or local office, too. But it is something the president tweeted about yesterday, complete with his signature mix of misinformation and rogue capitalization:

But is this really a thing? Do most (or any?) states allow voters to change their minds after they’ve already cast a ballot? Here’s what you need to know.

What to know about changing your vote

No, this isn’t an option in most states. But, some variation of changing your vote is permitted in a few states. Yet again, this comes down to looking up your state’s election laws—though we’ll admit that for this one, that’s easier said than done.

States use no standard language when discussing your ability to change your vote—sometimes it’s “spoiling” a ballot; other times it’s “correcting” it and so on—so searching for the text of the regulations themselves may not be as helpful as it usually is. And if you’re not familiar with the term, “spoiling” your vote involves requesting that election officials invalidate your ballot so you can get a new one. But—you guessed it—specific spoiling provisions also vary from state to state.

If you’re not able to pinpoint your state’s voting do-over rules (or lack thereof), you can always give your local elections office a ring, or get in touch with a state chapter of a voting rights organization. In the meantime, here are the rules in the handful of states in which there even exists a possibility of changing your vote:

Connecticut

There’s no statewide law on changing your vote in Connecticut, but it is something that certain cities and towns offer. Check with your local voting office to find out if it’s an option.

Michigan

If a voter has already voted absentee and wishes to change their vote (because the candidate has dropped out of the race, or for any other reason), a voter can spoil their ballot by submitting a written request to their city or township clerk.

Minnesota

The state also lets you recast your ballot—they call it a “clawback”—but the last day to request a new ballot was October 20, so that ship has sailed.

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office told CBS Boston that voters who’ve already cast absentee ballots can show up on Election Day, and if their ballot has not yet been processed, can use an in-person ballot instead. If you’re going to attempt this, get to the polls as early as you can.

New York

Voters can go to the polls and request a new ballot (which will be the one that is counted) to redo their vote, even if they’ve already cast a mail-in ballot.

Pennsylvania

This one is tricky, because technically Pennsylvania does let voters spoil their ballots, but in order to do so they have to bring their unfinished, not-yet-cast mail-in ballot with them. So if you’ve already submitted your ballot, it isn’t really an option.

Washington

The state of Washington allows voters to request “replacement ballots” as a way of spoiling their vote. To do this, contact your local county elections department.

Wisconsin

Voters have the opportunity to “correct” absentee ballots they’ve already submitted. To get a new ballot, contact your municipal clerk as soon as possible. If there’s enough time, your clerk can cancel your original ballot and give you a new one. Tomorrow (October 29) happens to be the legal deadline for requesting absentee ballots by mail, so you’re better off getting your new ballot in person.

A handful of other states—including Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi and New Mexico—also allow voters to spoil ballots, but only in cases where the original ballot hasn’t already been returned and processed. This article from ABC News provides some additional information and context.