Absentee Ballot Rules Explained
WASHINGTON – The virtue of absentee ballots has no doubt been argued everywhere from Shelly’s Back Room in Washington, D.C., where the give-and-take was accompanied by cigars and whiskey, to the crowded dining room of the Red Arrow 24 Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the combatants lingered over chicken tenders and fries.
Wherever the conversation has taken place, it has boiled down to two essential assertions:
That by removing barriers to voting, absentee ballots allow more people to vote in the manner most convenient for them.
Or, that there’s no empirical proof this has actually happened, and that by opening the door to absenteeism, you’re only increasing the odds of a vote being discounted due to voter error or other compromising behavior.
Despite the controversies that consume armchair experts, every state in the union will mail an absentee ballot to any registered voter who requests one.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia allow any qualified voter to cast an absentee ballot without offering an excuse, giving them the option of returning their vote by mail or in person.
In 17 states, an excuse is required before a voter becomes eligible to use an absentee ballot.
Some states even maintain a permanent absentee ballot list, meaning once a voters asks to be added to the list, he or she will automatically receive an absentee ballot prior to all future elections.
Of course, there are many variations in how each state carries out absentee balloting. To find out how the process is handled in your state, simply click on the state links below.
The following are the 33 states that offer “no excuse” absentee voting or voting by mail:
Alaska, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Additionally, one, Rhode Island, continues to send out absentee voter materials that include a list of excuses, though it also informs them that “no specific reason is necessary.”
Commonly accepted reasons for casting an absentee ballot include a voter’s absence from his or her home county on Election Day; illness or physical disability; a voter’s prolonged absence from his or her home county; a voter being required to work during polling hours; religious observance; and incarceration (non-felony).
The following 17 states require a citizen to provide a valid excuse to vote absentee:
Permanent Absentee Voting
Seven states and the District of Columbia permit any voter to join a permanent absentee ballot list and will mail that voter an absentee ballot for each election.
Also of note: Both Hawaii and Utah will hold all-mail ballot elections in 2020.
Absentee ballot deadlines for all states can be found here.
In The News
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Franklin County judge issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday permitting the installation of more than one ballot drop box per county ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. In handing down his decision, however, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye... Read More
ATLANTA — Fierce battles over which votes count are already being fought in courts this election season, with armies of voting rights advocates, political parties and attorneys gearing up to bring more challenges to Georgia election laws when ballots are cast. The most significant court intervention... Read More
WASHINGTON — The controversial new chief of the U.S. Postal Service had not even started his job when a disturbing thing happened to hundreds of thousands of Americans who cast ballots by mail in primary elections this spring. Their votes were never counted. The torrent of... Read More
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohioans stake the names of their preferred candidates in the November election outside their homes, a new form of activism is showing up alongside the traditional candidate yard signs. Absentee ballot requests, voter registration forms and other nonpartisan information about how to... Read More
Two of the nation’s final primary contests of the cycle will be decided Tuesday, in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, but one of the most interesting tests will be over the power of someone who’s not on the ballot: President Donald Trump. Republicans in the Granite... Read More
WASHINGTON - Regardless of what happens between now and Tuesday, Nov. 3, the 2020 campaign for the White House will go down in history as a race like no other. Played out against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the contest now comes down to a... Read More