Early and Absentee Voting
Many voters may not be able to vote in-person at the polls on Election Day, whether because they have work obligations, are out of town, or cannot physically get to the polls because of a disability or lack of ready access to transportation. States have adopted early voting to provide these voters with a better opportunity to cast a ballot. All states allow absentee voting so voters can submit ballots by mail on or before Election Day.
Voters can vote early in thirty-two states and the District of Columbia, and do not need to provide a reason or justification. Early voting polling places may be different from Election Day polling locations, so voters should check with local election boards to find the right place to vote. Some states require residents to cast early votes at a single, centralized location, while others set up early voting sites throughout the county or in population centers. Hours for early voting can also vary.
Early Voting Dates for 2012 General Election
September 21 Idaho, South Dakota
September 22 Vermont
September 27 Iowa, Wyoming
October 1 Nebraska
October 2 Ohio
October 8 California
October 9 Indiana
October 11 Arizona
October 15 Georgia
October 17 Kansas, Tennessee
October 18 North Carolina
October 20 Nevada, New Mexico
October 22 Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin
October 23 Hawaii, Louisiana, Utah
October 24 West Virginia
October 27 Florida, Maryland
November 2 Oklahoma
Maine and Montana early voting begins as soon as official ballots become available—generally 30-45 days before Election Day.
Although all states issue absentee ballots, state requirements as to who may receive an absentee ballot widely vary. Twenty-one states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, require a voter to provide a reason that they will not be able to get to the polls on Election Day. In the other states and the District of Columbia, a voter does not need a reason to request an absentee ballot. Voters should check state deadlines for requesting and retuning absentee ballots. Voters in Oregon and Washington, where elections are conducted entirely by mail, may still request an absentee ballot. You can also find this state-specific information by visiting www.866ourvote.org.
Request an absentee ballot today through U.S Vote Foundation's online tool.
Problems With Early And Absentee Voting
Problems in administering elections may cause obstacles for some early and absentee voters. For example, fewer polling places are usually open for early voting than will be open for Election Day, forcing voters to travel longer distances to cast a ballot through early voting. States also sometimes send out absentee ballots too late for voters to cast these votes on time. Absentee and early voters should be aware of these potential issues with casting their ballots.
 Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.