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Absentee and Early Voting

Learn about early and absentee voting. Both make it easier for many people to cast their vote if they cannot make it to the polls on Election Day.

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. 

How To Vote Absentee if You Live in the U.S.

Get your absentee ballot from your state or territory. 

Visit Can I Vote and choose your state from the dropdown menu. It will take you right to your state's absentee voting page.

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

Know Your State’s Absentee Ballot Deadlines

  • Make sure you follow your state’s deadlines for requesting and returning your absentee ballot. See your state’s absentee voting deadlines. And note whether the deadline is for when your ballot must be postmarked or for when it must be received by the elections office.

You Received an Absentee Ballot but Want To Vote In Person

  • You might be able to vote in person on Election Day, even if you received a mail-in ballot. Every state has different rules, so check with your state or local election office for the specific procedures. Typically:

    • You would take your absentee ballot to your designated polling place on Election Day.

    • Depending on your state's rules, you might exchange your uncast absentee ballot for an in-person ballot, or complete your absentee ballot and hand it in, or cast a provisional ballot. 

Know Your Options for Returning Your Absentee Ballot

Check with your state or local election office to learn about other ways to return your absentee ballot besides postal mail. Some states have ballot drop boxes. Many let you return your ballot in person at your local election office or another location. 

How to Vote Absentee if You Are in the Military or Overseas

Who Can and Cannot 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. Complete the Federal Post Card Application (FCPA) online. You must know your voting residence for this.

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.

  • 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 with your state or local election office. Check under “absentee voting” if you don’t see information listed under “voting in person” or “early voting.” 

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Last Updated: August 8, 2022