With more than three million mailed ballots throughout the DMV, all three elections offices have created ways for voters to track their ballot through the process.
"When you vote in person, you know right away when you slide your ballot into the machine that it's being counted," said Fairfax County voter Tim Schick.
But the thought was that it was too risky this election for he and his wife, who are in their 60s, due to COVID-19. So, they decided to trust the U.S. Postal Service and requested ballots early, getting them within a few days.
"Of all the things I've used the mail for us in the past, any time this year, receiving and mailing back my ballot is the most important," Schick said.
But when Schick checked the Ballot Scout website, designed to track Virginia ballots, it said his ballot hadn't even been mailed to him yet. He'd already received it, voted and mailed it back.
"I was concerned about it," said Schick.
To make matters worse, his wife's ballot said it had been delivered, but there was no record of it being mailed back, either. They kept checking for days, then finally decided to log into the state's voter registration page instead. It relies on internal data from the elections office.
"And that showed that it was received the day after we mailed it, which was a huge relief," Schick said.
A disclaimer on the Ballot Scout site says it relies on the postal service to scan the envelopes. If that step is missed, a ballot might appear to be missing. Ballot Scout told the News4 I-Team Virginia opted not to use the feature where the elections office confirms receipt of ballots.
"That would be a good thing,” Schick said. “It would resolve a lot of the anxiety that people have.”
Maryland's ballot tracking system tells voters when their ballot has been sent, received and counted.
"It's our own in-house system that we've been using for years," said Nikki Charlson with the Maryland State Board of Elections.
D.C. is contracting with a company called BallotTrax.
"You can register, and it actually tracks your ballot through the mail process," said Michael Bennett with the DC Board of Elections.
D.C.'s system also uses the intelligent barcode from the postal service and your unique voter code to note when your ballot has been received and counted by the elections office.
Schick eventually got his ballot confirmed in Virginia but wishes the easy-to-use third party site didn’t only rely on the postal service.
“It just confuses people and causes anxiety, particularly with all the attention that’s been given these days to mail delivery and similar problems,” he said.
The News4 I-Team has been tracking the speed of mail delivery leading up to the election. The I-Team mailed hundreds of letters in the past couple of months and found most local mail arrives within a week, but a couple of letters didn’t make it. So, when you get your mailed ballot, fill it out and send it back right away.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.