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Early & Absentee Voting

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.

Early Voting

Voters can vote early in thirty-two states[1] 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.

Absentee Voting

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.

[1] 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.