Absentee and Early Voting

Learn about absentee and early voting as alternatives to voting on Election Day. Find out the rules for your state.

Absentee Voting, or Voting by Mail

Absentee voting allows you to vote by mail. Though every state has absentee voting, rules on who can take part vary.

Military and Overseas Voters

Register and Request an Absentee Ballot in One Step

If you are a military or overseas U.S. citizen, you can register to vote and request an absentee ballot in one step. Use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) (PDF, Download Adobe Reader).

You must know your voting residence for this.

If you're an overseas citizen, your voting residence is the address in the state you last resided in the U.S.

You can use this address even if:

  • You no longer own property in that state.

  • You’re not sure whether you’re going to return to that state.

  • Your previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.

If you're a military or military family member, your voting residence should be in the state listed on your Leave and Earnings Statement. It is not necessarily your home of record.

Submit Your Application As Soon As Possible

Whether you’re in the military or are an overseas U.S. citizen, you should submit your FCPA as soon as possible. You need to get your absentee ballot in time to return it by your state's deadline. But if you don’t, you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) to vote.

Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program to learn more.

Other Citizens: Check With Your State to Vote By Mail or Absentee Ballot

If you're not a military or overseas voter, you must get your absentee ballot from your state or territory. Every state’s voting rules are different. This includes the rules for who can vote by mail and how to get an absentee or mail-in ballot.

  • Visit your state or territorial election office website and look for “Absentee Voting” or “Voting By Mail.” If you don’t see either term , try using the site’s search tool.

  • Your state may require you to have a valid excuse to vote absentee. Acceptable excuses vary by state. Most include:

  • Being unable to get to your polling place due to illness, injury, or disability.

  • Being on business travel or vacation outside of your county or city of residence on Election Day

  • Being a student at an out-of-state college or university

This National Conference of State Legislatures table shows which states require an excuse.

Follow your state’s instructions for requesting an absentee or vote-by-mail ballot.

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Early Voting and In-Person Absentee Voting

Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period.

  • Most states have early voting. This lets registered voters vote on specified dates before Election Day.

  • You don't need an excuse to vote early.

  • Some states have in-person absentee voting, which lets you vote early too. But for in-person absentee voting, you must get an absentee ballot. Your state may require you to submit a valid excuse too.

Time Frames for Early Voting and In-Person Absentee Voting

This early voting chart lists time frames for states that offer early voting. 

The rules change from state to state. Make sure you know yours if you plan to vote early or in-person absentee. The best place to check is your state/territorial election office website.

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Last Updated: October 26, 2018