How vote by mail works in all 50 states for Election Day 2020

How will you cast your vote in the Nov. 3 election: In person on election day, through early in-person voting or in the mail? Every state offers some form of voting by mail, but without overarching federal guidelines, the rules for who gets to cast a mail-in ballot — and the steps they need to follow — vary state by state.

For example, a handful of states will send an absentee ballot to each registered voter. Others will require voters to apply for a mail-in ballot, citing a reason why they can’t show up in person. And a few require a witness to observe the voter marking the ballot. In between are “no-excuse” states that will send a mail-in ballot to a voter who requests one for any reason.

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, up to 50% of voters are estimated to cast their ballot by mail as one measure to keep from spreading or acquiring COVID-19. Absentee voting is already on the rise, growing from 7.8% in 1996 and to nearly 21% in 2016, according to Pew Research Center. (If you do vote in person, here’s how to stay safe.)

Here’s how each state and the District of Columbia is handling elections this year. Note that many states are still finalizing their plans for the November election — check back for updates.

How vote by mail will work in your state

Knowing how your state will treat mail-in ballots can help you plan how you’ll vote this year.

Alabama: Prior to 2020, the state required an excuse to vote by mail, such illness. For a July run-off election, a judge blocked that requirement, and for the general election, the state issued an emergency rule that allows any qualified voter to request an absentee ballot.

Alaska: The state is taking steps to ensure voters and polling station workers stay safe for this election this year, including giving voters masks and gloves. For its August primary and November general elections, anyone can request a mail-in ballot. The state requires a witness to observe a voter signing the absentee ballot.

Arizona: The state is one of many that offers no-excuse absentee voting, which means any Arizonan can request a one-time or permanent mail-in ballot without needing to give a reason.

Arkansas: To vote by mail, you need to request an absentee ballot with an excuse why you can’t vote in person, such as illness or physical disability. The state’s Board of Election Commissioners said concern about COVID-19 is a valid excuse to request an absentee ballot.

California: For the November general election the state will send a mail-in ballot to all registered voters prior to the election. Normally, California voters would need to request a mail-in ballot. Polling places will also be open for those who want to vote in person, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3.

Colorado: Since 2013, every voter in the state receives a mail ballot. If the voter prefers to vote at the polls, they have the option of going to a polling center.

Connecticut: Normally requiring an excuse to vote by mail, Connecticut will allow any voter to receive an absentee ballot for the November election.

Delaware: For its July primary, the state allowed any voter who was self-quarantining or practicing social distancing to cast an absentee ballot and extended the provision for the fall election.

District of Columbia: D.C. voters can request an absentee ballot without an excuse. In its primary election, the District opened just 20 of its normal 143 polling places, with long lines at each to vote…Read more>>


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