Vote by Mail: A State-by-State Guide to Absentee Ballot Voting

With health authorities recommending people continue to social distance, the idea of voting by mail is becoming an increasingly hot topic.

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Don't let casting your ballot this November become too much of a hassle. Thanks to COVID-19, health authorities are recommending that people continue to social distance. And with that in mind, the idea of voting by mail is becoming an increasingly hot topic.The Kiplinger Letter expects more states to follow suit as the presidential election draws closer.

An option for registered voters in states where voting by mail isn't the status quo (and who are concerned about Election Day crowds) is to sign up for absentee voting on their own. To do this, you'll need to go to your state's board of elections website, complete and submit the absentee ballot application electronically or print it out and return it by mail as soon as possible -- especially if you have to mail the application in. Once approved, you'll be able to vote from home and avoid any potential exposure to the coronavirus. If you're not a registered voter, you need to register with your home state as soon as possible. To do so, you need to go to your state's voter registration website or visit www.vote.gov.

In 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, any qualified voter can request an absentee ballot without needing an excuse. For the rest of the country, a valid reason is needed to be approved for absentee voting. What qualifies as an acceptable excuse varies by state, but includes performing jury duty, being an election worker or being out of town at the time of the election.

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This year, you may not even need to request an absentee ballot. For primary elections this spring, some states, such as Maryland, sent absentee ballots to all registered voters. However, if you plan to vote absentee, request and send your ballot in by mail as early as possible. Or if you're concerned about your ballot being counted, you can also request an absentee ballot and drop it off at a ballot drop box location operated by your local election officials.

In the table below, we've highlighted the deadlines for when absentee ballot applications need to be received for Election Day in November and if an excuse is required. Take a look.

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StateApplication Deadline Date via MailExcuse Needed
(Y/N)
Alabama (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 5 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Alaska (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 10 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Arizona (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 11 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Arkansas (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
California (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020.N
Colorado (opens in new tab)Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
Connecticut (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Delaware (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 4 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
District of Columbia (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Florida (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 10 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Georgia (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 5 p.m. the Friday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Hawaii (opens in new tab)Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
Idaho (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 23, 2020.N
Illinois (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 29, 2020.N
Indiana (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 22, 2020.Y
Iowa (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than the Saturday 10 days prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Kansas (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020N
Kentucky (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Louisiana (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 4:30 p.m. 4 days to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Maine (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 3 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Maryland (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020.N
Massachusetts (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by noon the day prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Michigan (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the Friday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Minnesota (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application any time of the year except election day. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Mississippi (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 8 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further detaY
Missouri (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the second Wednesday prior to any election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Montana (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by noon the day prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Nebraska (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 6 p.m. on the second Friday preceding the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Nevada (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the fourteenth calendar day preceding an election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
New Hampshire (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application as soon as possible. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
New Jersey (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
New Mexico (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 30, 2020.N
New York (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y*
North Carolina (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the Tuesday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
North Dakota (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Nov. 2, 2020.N
Ohio (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 3 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Oklahoma (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Oregon (opens in new tab)Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
Pennsylvania (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2020.N
Puerto Rico (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 60 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Rhode Island (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 4 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2020.Y*
South Carolina (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2020.Y
South Dakota (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2020.N
Tennessee (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020.Y
Texas (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by Oct. 23, 2020.Y
Utah (opens in new tab)Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
Vermont (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the day before the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Virginia (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the Tuesday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Washington (opens in new tab)Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
West Virginia (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application no later than 6 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Wisconsin (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the Thursday preceding the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
Wyoming (opens in new tab)Voters must submit application any time of the year except election day. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N

* For New York and Rhode Island you can write in "potential to contract COVID-19" as an excuse to request an absentee ballot.

Rivan V. Stinson
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. She's now a staff writer for the magazine and helps produce content for Kiplinger.com. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher.