Here’s What to Know About Voting by Mail, State by State

Amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the way Americans choose to cast their votes for the 2020 presidential election might look a little different this year, as a record number of people opt to rely on absentee ballots or mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, over 180 million voters will be eligible to vote by mail this year.

With states continuing to encourage social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, local elections have shown states struggling with longer waiting times and disorganization impacting voter turnout, even with higher reported levels of voter engagement. For example, Wisconsin and Georgia both had issues with multi-hour waits, as well as people reportedly requesting absentee ballots and never receiving them. There have also been concerns about workers contracting coronavirus due to difficulties enforcing social distancing measures and proper disinfection.

 

While mail-in voting eradicates some of these concerns, it’s brought a renewed spotlight to the financially-strained U.S. Postal Service, which is already struggling with delays and overwhelming demand due to the pandemic.

In particular, officials have expressed concerns due to recent cuts in funding for the USPS, subsequent delays in mail and package delivery, and the ramifications that these changes could have for the integrity of the upcoming election. After 20 Democratic states announced they were planning to file federal lawsuits, new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced on Tuesday, Aug. 18 that the USPS will pause recent reforms like cuts in post office hours, the number of mail collection boxes, and overtime pay for employees until after the election.

While DeJoy said he’d pause many of the operational changes on Aug. 19, lawmakers are still going to vote to reverse them on Saturday, and he is still scheduled to appear before them on Friday and Monday. 

President Trump has made no secret of his distrust of mail-in voting. He has stated multiple times that mail-in voting is correlated to voter fraud, despite experts saying there is no evidence to support this claim, and his latest interviews make it unclear whether he supports providing extra emergency funding to the USPS to cope with an influx of mail-in ballots come November.

As politicians attempt to hammer out the details of USPS policy in Washington, D.C., many states have been independently making changes to make it easier for people to vote without having to physically head to the polls.

 

At this time, all states offer mail-in voting for at least a portion of their population, and in response to the pandemic, a number of states have changed their absentee ballot policies to better accommodate voters.

To ensure their ballots are counted, voters should mark their calendars to vote quite a bit earlier than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in Novembers, as is tradition. In a letter to election officials dated May 29, the USPS advised that voters be made aware that they should request ballots as early as possible. In a statement sent to multiple news outlets, it recommended requesting a ballot at least 15 days before Nov. 3 to make sure your vote is counted.

“… We recommend that customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of absentee ballots, including postmarking requirements,” USPS said in the statement. “Voters must use First-Class Mail or an expedited level of service to return their completed ballots.”

Although all states currently allow some form of mail-in voting, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, New Jersey, Nevada, and Washington will automatically send registered voters a mail-in ballot to fill out and send in. As of the time of publication, California, Washington D.C., and Vermont will also be automatically sending out ballots to all registered voters this year. Meanwhile, as of Aug. 14, Delaware, Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, and Massachusetts are automatically sending out applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters. For the other states, voters must fill out an application to request an absentee ballot instead of voting in person.

 

This year, a number of states will offer changes to their “no-excuse” absentee ballot policy due to the pandemic.

While a number of states typically require voters to have an excuse to send in an absentee ballot instead of voting in person, some have changed their laws to make a fear of contracting the coronavirus a valid reason to request an absentee ballot in the primaries. Residents in Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi (unless you’re under a “physician-imposed quarantine” or caring for someone who is), and Louisiana won’t be able to use this excuse as a reason to vote by mail.

You can see what your state’s policy is on absentee ballots on the Brookings.edu state-by-state scorecard, as well as if you’ll need your signature, witness signatures, or a notarization before sending in your vote. You can also check to see if your state offers early in-person voting. For the most updated information, reach out to the Secretary of State’s office or Board of Elections in your state, or your county clerk’s office.

 

Here’s what to know about voting by mail, state by state:

 

Alabama

Application deadline by mail: Oct. 29

Eligibility: You can apply for a mail-in ballot if you are currently out of state, sick, are a caregiver or incarcerated, or are working a required shift greater than 10 hours on a polling day

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by noon on Nov. 3 or dropped off in person by the end of business on Nov. 2

Additional requirements: Signatures from two witnesses or a notary, in addition to a photocopy of your photo ID

 

Alaska

Application deadline: Oct. 24

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: Signature from a witness or notary

 

Arizona

Application deadline: Oct. 23

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Arkansas

Application deadline by mail: Oct. 27

Eligibility: You can apply for a mail-in ballot if you have health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, are traveling, are a member of the military or are a family member of a member of the military who has to be away from their polling place on Election Day, are an Arkansas voter temporarily living out of the country, are sick, or have a physical disability that prevents you from going to a polling place

Application deadline in person: Nov. 2

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3 or dropped off in person by Nov. 2

Additional requirements: A photocopy of your photo ID

 

California

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 20

Additional Requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

Colorado

Application deadline by mail: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

Connecticut

Application deadline by mail: Nov. 2

Eligibility: You can apply for a mail-in ballot if you will be out of state, you are sick (or if you are concerned about the health risks posed by COVID-19), you have a physical disability which prevents you from voting in person, your religion prohibits non-religious activity on Election Day, you are on active military duty, or you will be working at a polling place during the voting hours

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Delaware

Application deadline by mail: Noon on Nov. 2*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

District of Columbia

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Ballots must be postmarked (or dropped off in person) by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 10.

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

Florida

Application deadline: Oct. 24, or Nov. 3 if in person

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Georgia

Application deadline: Oct. 30

Eligibility: Any registered voter who is traveling, active duty military, outside of the country, or unable to vote in person on Election Day

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Hawaii

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent ballots

 

Idaho

Application deadline: Oct. 23

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Illinois

Application deadline: Oct. 29, or Nov. 2 if in person*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 17

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

Indiana

Application deadline: Oct. 22

Eligibility: You can request a mail-in ballot if you have a “specific, reasonable expectation” that you won’t be able to vote during polling hours, you have a disability, you are at least 65, you are sick or will be caring for a person who is sick, you are working at a polling place outside of your voting precinct, you are scheduled to work during polling hours, religious reasons, you are a member of the military or a public safety officer, or you won’t be able to vote due to transportation reasons. You can also vote absentee if you are a serious sex offender, or are part of the state’s address confidentiality program.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by noon on Nov. 3

Additional requirements: Cannot use fear of COVID as an excuse for requesting an absentee ballot

 

Iowa

Application deadline: Oct. 24*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 2, received by noon on Nov. 9, or dropped off in person by Nov. 3.

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

Kansas

Application deadline by mail: Oct. 27

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3, and received by Nov. 6

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Kentucky

Application deadline: Oct. 27

Eligibility: For the 2020 General Election, any registered voter may request an absentee ballot.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Louisiana

Application deadline: Oct. 30

Eligibility: You can request an absentee ballot if you are a student or teacher (or a spouse/dependent of either) temporarily living outside of your voting precinct, 65 years old or older, you’ll be outside your state during the early voting period and on Nov. 3, you reside in a nursing home and are unable to vote in person, you’re working “offshore,” you recently moved to a different precinct more than 100 miles away from your former residence, you were hospitalized during early voting and will be hospitalized on Nov. 3, you will be involuntarily confined for mental treatment outside your precinct, you will be hospitalized on Nov. 3 and did not know until early voting was over, you are incarcerated, you are a member of the clergy or a spouse/dependent assigned outside of your voting precinct, or you will be sequestered on Nov. 3. You can also vote absentee if you are participating in the Address Confidentiality Program or if you are the secretary of state, an employee of the secretary of state, or an employee of the registrar of voters.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 2

Additional requirements: Signature from a witness. Cannot use fear of COVID as an excuse for requesting an absentee ballot

 

Maine

Application deadline: Oct. 29

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Maryland

Application deadline: Oct. 20*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by 10 a.m. on Nov. 13

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

Massachussetts

Application deadline: Oct. 28*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

Michigan

Application deadline: Oct. 30 or Nov. 2 if in person

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Minnesota

Application deadline: Nov. 2

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 10

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Mississippi

Application deadline: N/A

Eligibility: You can request an absentee ballot for reasons related to age, health status, work requirements, educational location, or military service. Check with your Circuit or Municipal Clerk for the specifics.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 10

Additional requirements: Notarization required. Cannot use fear of COVID as an excuse for requesting an absentee ballot (unless in “physician-imposed quarantine” or caring for someone who is).

 

Missouri

Application deadline: Oct. 21, or Nov. 2 in person

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: Notarization is required.

 

Montana

Application deadline: Noon on Nov. 2

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Nebraska

Application deadline: Oct. 23

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Nevada

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 10

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

New Hampshire

Application deadline: Nov. 2

Eligibility: You may request to vote by absentee ballot if you will be away from your city or town the entire time that polls are open, you’re observing a religious holiday while the polls are open, you have a disability or illness, you have work (or caregiving) demands for the entire time the polls are open, or you’re concerned about the transmission of COVID-19.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

New Jersey

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 5.

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

New Mexico

Application deadline by mail: Oct. 20

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

New York

Application deadline: Oct. 27, or Nov. 2 if in person

Eligibility: You can apply for an absentee ballot if you won’t be in your voting county on Nov. 3. New York City residents can apply if they won’t be in the city. You can also apply due to illness or physical disability (including if you’re concerned about the transmission of COVID-19) or if you are a caretaker of someone with an illness or physical disability, a resident or patient at the Veterans Health Administration Hospital, or some who is detained in jail for a non-felony offense.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 10

Additional requirements: N/A

 

North Carolina

Application deadline: Oct. 27

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6

Additional requirements: Signature of one witness

 

North Dakota

Application deadline: N/A

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 2 and received by Nov. 9

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Ohio

Application deadline: Noon on Oct. 31*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by Nov. 13, or dropped off in person by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

Oklahoma

Application deadline: Oct. 27

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: All absentee ballots need to be notarized, but a COVID-positive voter or a voter who is at high risk for coronavirus can have use signature of two witnesses instead

 

Oregon

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

Pennsylvania

Application deadline: Oct. 27

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Rhode Island

Application deadline: Oct. 13, or Nov. 2 if an emergency ballot

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

South Carolina

Application deadline: Oct. 24 by mail, or Oct. 30 in person

Eligibility: On Sept. 16, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill expanding the availability of absentee voting. Now, all registered South Carolina voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: Signature from a witness.

 

South Dakota

Application deadline: Nov. 2

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Tennessee

Application deadline: Oct. 27

Eligibility: You can apply for an absentee ballot if you are at least 60 years old, you will be outside of your voting precinct during the early voting period and on Nov. 3, you will be serving as a juror, you have a physical disability or are hospitalized or ill and cannot vote in person, you are a caretaker of someone who is hospitalized or ill or has a physical disability, you are a candidate in the election, you are an election official, you will be observing a religious holiday, you are a member of the military or living overseas, you live in a licensed facility that’s outside your voting precinct, or a licensed physician sends a statement to the county election commission at least five days before Nov. 3 saying you’re medically unable to vote. You can also apply if you or your spouse will be working outside the state during the early voting period and on Nov. 3 and possess either a valid commercial drivers license or Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or if you or your spouse are a full-time college student outside your county of registration

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: Cannot use fear of COVID as an excuse for requesting an absentee ballot, although you can use illness as an excuse if you are at high risk due to underlying health reasons

 

Texas

Application deadline: Oct. 23

Eligibility: You can apply for an absentee ballot if you are at least 65 years old, have a  disability, will be away during the early voting period and on Nov. 3, or will be confined in jail.

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 4

Additional requirements: Cannot use fear of COVID as an excuse for requesting an absentee ballot

 

Utah

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by noon on the day of your county canvass, or dropped off in person by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

Vermont

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

Virginia

Application deadline: Oct. 27, or Oct. 31 if in person

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off in person by Nov. 3 and received by noon on Nov. 6

Additional requirements: Signature from a witness

 

Washington

Application deadline: N/A*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked or dropped off by person by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballots

 

West Virginia

Application deadline: Oct. 28

Eligibility: All registered voters may vote by absentee ballot in person this year due to COVID-19, a “medical reason.” 

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 9, or dropped off in person by Nov. 2

Additional requirements: N/A

 

Wisconsin

Application deadline by mail: Oct. 29*

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: Signature from a witness

*All registered voters will automatically be sent absentee ballot applications

 

Wyoming

Application deadline: Nov. 2

Eligibility: Any registered voter

Voted Ballot Deadline by mail: Received by Nov. 3

Additional requirements: N/A

 

A number of states are currently undergoing legal proceedings to make voting by mail easier leading up to the election, so residents of states with more stringent rules should keep checking back as we get closer to November. With a vote on the Delivering for America Act as well as proposed additional funding for the USPS in the second stimulus package in the pipeline, it’s likely voters will get a better idea of what casting their votes by absentee ballot will look like in the coming months.

 

This information was updated Sept. 17, 2020. We will note when further updates are made.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include the eligibility requirements of each state.

An earlier version of this post included incorrect deadline for absentee applications in South Carolina. This post has been updated.