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Politics

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.

Casting your ballot this November could be a lot more complicated thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. With health authorities recommending people continue to social distance, the idea of voting by mail is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Five states -- Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington -- already conduct their elections by mail. Ballots are automatically sent to registered voters at their last known address. They must then complete and send it back to their local board of elections by a specified date. 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.

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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.

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.

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.

 

StateApplication Deadline Date via MailExcuse Needed
(Y/N)
AlabamaVoters must submit application no later than 5 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
AlaskaVoters must submit application no later than 10 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
ArizonaVoters must submit application no later than 11 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
ArkansasVoters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
CaliforniaVoters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020.N
ColoradoVoters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
ConnecticutVoters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
DelawareVoters 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 ColumbiaVoters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
FloridaVoters must submit application no later than 10 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
GeorgiaVoters 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
HawaiiVoters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
IdahoVoters must submit application by Oct. 23, 2020.N
IllinoisVoters must submit application by Oct. 29, 2020.N
IndianaVoters must submit application by Oct. 22, 2020.Y
IowaVoters 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
KansasVoters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020N
KentuckyVoters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
LouisianaVoters 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
MaineVoters must submit application no later than 3 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
MarylandVoters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020.N
MassachusettsVoters must submit application by noon the day prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
MichiganVoters 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
MinnesotaVoters must submit application any time of the year except election day. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
MississippiVoters must submit application no later than 8 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further detaY
MissouriVoters 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
MontanaVoters must submit application by noon the day prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
NebraskaVoters 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
NevadaVoters 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 HampshireVoters must submit application as soon as possible. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
New JerseyVoters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
New MexicoVoters must submit application by Oct. 30, 2020.N
New YorkVoters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y*
North CarolinaVoters 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 DakotaVoters must submit application by Nov. 2, 2020.N
OhioVoters must submit application no later than 3 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
OklahomaVoters 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
OregonVoters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
PennsylvaniaVoters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2020.N
Puerto RicoVoters must submit application no later than 60 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
Rhode IslandVoters must submit application by 4 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2020.Y*
South CarolinaVoters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2020.Y
South DakotaVoters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2020.N
TennesseeVoters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020.Y
TexasVoters must submit application by Oct. 23, 2020.Y
UtahVoters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
VermontVoters must submit application by 5 p.m. the day before the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.N
VirginiaVoters 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
WashingtonVoters will automatically receive ballots in the mail.N/A
West VirginiaVoters must submit application no later than 6 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details.Y
WisconsinVoters 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
WyomingVoters 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.

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