If you're an out-of-state college student, you probably have heard of the dreaded absentee ballot. These mail-in ballots are not a "walk in the park," because if you mess up once with an absentee ballots, your vote could not be counted. This has been quite a contentious election season, and you don't want your ballot to be thrown in the trash. Luckily, Fresh U has gathered the best tips on how to fill out these ballots before the general election.

1. Check your home state's deadlines.

Most states need your absentee ballot to be postmarked by Election Day. This means that you need to have your ballot in the mail by this deadline so that the post office can put the correct date on the envelope. It is highly recommended that you mail your ballot at least a week before the deadline. Make sure you check the list of deadlines for your state so you don't mail your ballot  in too late. 

2. Fill out your ballot in the correct way.

Just like any written exam in high school, make sure you use black or blue ink to fill out your absentee ballot. Vote in all columns, and fill in the ovals completely to each candidate's name. If you make a mistake with the ballot, make sure you contact your local election office, or your vote may not be counted. 

3. Remember to sign your ballot.

Many voters to fail to finish this simple, yet crucial step in the voting process. Sign on the back of the signature envelope and make sure that your signature is similar to the original one on file. If these signatures do not match up, your vote could be invalidated. 

4. Mail your ballot to the right address.

This may seem like common sense, but many voters fail to write the complete address of the election office on their ballot's envelope. Read the instructions to ensure that you mail your ballot to the right place. Do not mail the absentee ballot to the state where you are going to college; instead, mail it to the originally indicated election office. 

5. Wait for the results of the election.

After finishing the grueling process of filling out an absentee ballot, you can wait to hear the results of this controversial election. The final election results will be released on the night of Tuesday, November 8th after the polls close, which is between 7 and 9 PM depending on the state.

Hopefully, with this advice from Fresh U, you can successfully fill out your absentee ballot with no errors. If you received an absentee ballot in the mail, definitely take the time to send it in to your local post office. After all, every vote matters during this tight election season. 

Lead Image Credit: Aaron Tait via Flickr Creative Commons