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How vote by mail works in all 50 states for the 2020 election. Hint: You can do it now

How states are dealing with voting by mail for the final election.


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This story is part of Elections 2020, PJDM’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Election Day is lower than two weeks away on Nov. 3, so if you have not discovered how you may vote, now’s the time: in person on election day, via early in-person voting or with a mail-in ballot. Each state presents some type of voting by mail, however the guidelines for who will get to cast a mail-in ballot — and the steps you may have to comply with — differ from state to state. 

For instance, a handful of states have routinely despatched an absentee ballot to every registered voter. Others require voters to use for a mail-in poll, citing a cause why they cannot present up in particular person to vote. And some require a witness to look at the voter marking a mail-in poll. In between are “no-excuse” states that may ship a mail-in poll to a voter who requests one for any cause. 

On account of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, as much as 50% of voters are estimated to cast their ballot by mail as one measure to maintain from spreading or buying COVID-19. Absentee voting is already on the rise, rising from 7.8% in 1996 and to almost 21% in 2016, according to Pew Research Center. (Should you do vote in particular person, here is how to stay safe.)

This is how every state and the District of Columbia is dealing with elections this yr. Observe that some states are nonetheless finishing their plans for the November election — examine again for updates.

Learn extra: Here’s how to track your election ballot like a FedEx package in every state

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How vote by mail works in each state

Understanding how your state will deal with mail-in ballots may also help you propose how you may vote this yr.

Alabama: Previous to 2020, the state required an excuse to vote by mail, such sickness. For a July run-off election, a judge blocked that requirement, and for the final election, the state issued an emergency rule that permits any certified voter to request an absentee poll.

Alaska: The state is taking steps to make sure voters and polling station employees keep secure for this election this yr, together with giving voters masks and gloves. For its August major and November common elections, anyone can request a mail-in ballot. The state requires a witness to look at a voter signing the absentee poll.

Arizona: The state is one in all many that gives no-excuse absentee voting, which suggests any Arizonan can request a one-time or permanent mail-in ballot while not having to present a cause. 

Arkansas: To vote by mail, you must request an absentee ballot with an excuse why you may’t vote in particular person, reminiscent of sickness or bodily incapacity. The state’s Board of Election Commissioners mentioned concern about COVID-19 is a legitimate excuse to request an absentee poll.

California: For the November common election the state will send a mail-in ballot to all registered voters previous to the election. Usually, California voters would wish to request a mail-in poll. Polling locations will even be open for many who wish to vote in particular person, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3.

Colorado: Since 2013, every voter in the state receives a mail ballot. If the voter prefers to vote on the polls, they’ve the choice of going to a polling middle.

Connecticut: Usually requiring an excuse to vote by mail, Connecticut will allow any voter to receive an absentee ballot for the November election.

Delaware: For its July major, the state allowed any voter who was self-quarantining or practicing social distancing to forged an absentee poll and extended the provision for the autumn election.

District of Columbia: D.C. voters can request an absentee ballot without an excuse. In its major election, the District opened just 20 of its normal 143 polling places, with lengthy traces at every to vote.

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Keep away from your polling place and vote safely via the mail.


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Florida: The state permits any registered voter to request an absentee ballot with no cause. The state additionally allowed election officials to count ballots forged for the November election sooner than usually allowed due to the pandemic.

Georgia: A registered voter can request an absentee poll with out an excuse by applying.

Hawaii: Beginning this yr, Hawaii will hold elections by mail. Registered voters will obtain ballots a couple of weeks earlier than an election.

Idaho: Due to the pandemic, for its Could major, the state completely used absentee voting. For November, any registered voter can request a mail-in ballot.

Illinois: Within the state, any registered voter can request a mail-in ballot

Indiana: Voters should submit a request together with a cause why they cannot vote in particular person to obtain an absentee poll. For its current June 2 major, the state relaxed its restrictions, permitting voters to cast ballots by mail to maintain voters and ballot employees secure from coronavirus. The state will not extend those provisions for November.

Iowa: Any Iowa registered voter can request an absentee ballot without a reason.

Kansas: The state lets any registered voter vote by mail utilizing what it calls “an advance by mail ballot.”

Kentucky: For the final election this fall, any registered voter can request an absentee ballot. In previous election cycles, voters needed an excuse to vote by mail.

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Louisiana: In Louisiana, you might be required to have an excuse, reminiscent of age or hospitalization, to vote by mail. For its July and August election, registered voters may use concerns about exposure to coronavirus as a cause. For the November election the state is considering narrowing the exception to those that check constructive within the days main as much as the election.

Maine: One other no-excuse state, any registered voter can cast an absentee ballot as an alternative of voting in particular person.

Maryland: Any registered voter may vote by mail-in ballot within the state with no cause. The state has accomplished away with referring to postal voting as “absentee” and as an alternative requires election officials to confer with absentee ballots as “mail-in ballots” and absentee voting as “mail-in voting.”

Massachusetts: One other state that usually requires an excuse to receive a mail-in ballot, Massachusetts for the November election is extending absentee voting to all registered voters.

Michigan: The state permits any registered voter to request a mail-in ballot, with a cause.

Minnesota: A no-excuse state, Minnesota has additionally removed the requirement for a witness signature on an absentee poll for the November election.

Mississippi: To vote by mail, Mississippi required an excuse that forestalls you from voting in particular person reminiscent of age or well being. For November, those that are in a physician-imposed quarantine or who’re caring for a dependent underneath quarantine can vote by absentee ballot.

Missouri: The state requires a reason to vote by mail, together with if the voter is in danger for contracting or transmitting coronavirus. Voters have to submit a request kind with their cause.

Montana: Usually, any registered voter can vote by absentee poll by submitting an application. For its June major, the state conducted an all mail-in election, mailing absentee ballots to each lively voter previous to the election. For November, the state is permitting counties to conduct all-mail voting.

Nebraska: One other “no-excuse” state, any registered voter can request an absentee ballot.

Nevada: In a typical yr, the state lets any voter request a mail-in ballot. For November, the state will run a “hybrid” election and mail an absentee poll to all registered voters. Voters can nonetheless forged their poll in particular person at a polling station.

New Hampshire: To permit any registered voters to forged a poll by mail and never threat an infection, New Hampshire changed its voting rules this spring to permit any voter to vote by mail.

New Jersey: The state determined in August it’ll send mail-in ballots to all registered voters for the upcoming election. In previous elections, voters wanted to request a vote-by-mail ballot.

New Mexico: Any registered voter can request an absentee poll. Election officials request voters mail their ballots by Oct. 27 to make sure it is obtained in time, as a result of doable postal delays.

New York: Usually requiring an excuse to vote by mail, for its June major, the state modified its guidelines and allowed any voter to ship in an absentee poll to keep away from coming involved with the virus. New York will hold the broader mail-in voting guidelines for November.

North Carolina: The state lets any registered voter request a mail-in poll without an excuse. For the November election, the state has reduced how many people want to look at your filling out the mail-in poll from two to one.

North Dakota: The state lets any resident who’s lived a voting precinct for 30 days previous to an election to request a mail-in ballot.

Ohio: Any registered voter in Ohio can request a mail-in ballot for the November election.

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Mail-in ballots are going out.


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Oklahoma: Oklahoma permits any registered voter to request an absentee ballot with out cause. Unlike other election cycles, this yr voters don’t have to have their signature notarized or witnessed by two individuals. 

Oregon: Oregon was the first state, in 2000, to maneuver to an all postal election — the place each registered voter receives a mail-in poll — and can conduct its elections this yr by mail.

Pennsylvania: The state attracts a transparent line between mail-in and absentee voting. Any registered voter could request a mail-in ballot, with out cause. In case you are unable to go to the polls, nevertheless, the state requires you to cast an absentee ballot instead.

Rhode Island: The state permits anybody who would not wish to vote in particular person to request an absentee poll. In a standard election yr, the state required two witnesses or a notary to look at the voter fill out the poll, however the state has waived that requirement this year.

South Carolina: For its June major election, the state allowed any registered voter to forged a mail-in poll with out an excuse. The no-excuse growth expired July 1, nevertheless, however the state legislature is looking to extend no-excuse absentee voting  for the Nov. Three election. In contrast to in earlier elections, the state will not require a witness signature on the absentee poll.

South Dakota: For its April major, the state mailed absentee ballots to all registered voters. South Dakota permits anybody to vote by mail however has not determined but if it’ll once more mail ballots to all registered voters for the November election.

Tennessee: In a normal election yr, voters are required to submit a request to vote by mail and supply an excuse. A judge has ordered election officials to list the risk of infection as a legitimate cause to request an absentee poll.

Texas: To vote by mail in Texas, voters have to submit an utility for an absentee poll together with an excuse — reminiscent of incapacity or age. 

See extra: PJDM’s full election 2020 coverage

Utah: Certainly one of 5 states — with Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington — that hold all-mail elections

Vermont: For the November election, the state will mail absentee ballots to all registered voters. To assist examine infections, Vermont will even permit voters to forged ballots at outside and drive-through polling locations.

Virginia: Whereas the state permits any registered voter to request a mail-in poll, in a standard election yr, absentee voters are required to have a witness current whereas voting. This yr, the state is waiving the requirement for a witness signature on the ballot.

Washington: One other state that holds all mail-in elections, every county will open a polling middle for many who wish to vote in particular person.

West Virginia: Whereas the state usually requires an excuse to vote by mail, for its June major election, West Virginia opened absentee voting to all voters due to the pandemic. For the November election, voters can use concerns about COVID-19 as an excuse.

Wisconsin: The state lets registered voters request an absentee ballot for any cause. The state requires a witness to observe the voter marking the absentee ballot.

Wyoming: Any registered voter can request an absentee ballot, with out excuse.

For extra, what you must find out about voting this fall, when early voting starts in your state and why it’s nearly impossible to pull off mail fraud with absentee ballots.

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Clifford Colby