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. Note: Your state's rules may change in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Voters Who Reside in the U.S.

Get your absentee ballot from your state or territory. 

  • 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 table shows which states require an excuse and the excuses each state will accept.

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

Military and Overseas Voters

Who can and can’t vote absentee

  • Military members and families stationed outside their legal voting residence can vote absentee.

  • Overseas U.S. citizens who used to live in the U.S. can vote absentee.

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).

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 member, your voting residence should be in the state listed on your Leave and Earnings Statement. It is not necessarily your home of record.

If you’re a military spouse, you can:

  • Use the same residence as the service member, even if you never lived or visited there

  • Keep your current, established residence. That's the address that you consider your permanent home and once lived at.

  • Take the appropriate steps to establish a new residence

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 to vote.

Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program to learn more.

Early 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. Note: Your state's rules and voting dates may change in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • 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.

  • In some states, you may cast an absentee ballot in person before Election Day. To do this, you must request an absentee ballot from your state. Your state may require you to submit a valid excuse too. 

Time Frames for Early 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. Check under “absentee voting” if you don’t see information listed under “voting in person” or “early voting.” 

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Last Updated: May 7, 2020

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