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Absentee and Early Voting

Please note important changes to mail-in absentee voting due to the coronavirus. Each state makes its own voting rules. Check with your state or local officials for the latest changes for the 2020 elections.

Coronavirus and Voting by Mail-In Absentee Ballot

States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Every state’s absentee voting rules are different. Be sure you know and follow the rules for your state if you decide to vote absentee. 

  • Use Can I Vote to find out local requirements for absentee voting and apply by phone, mail, or online. This site will direct you to your state's absentee voting page. 
  • Contact your local election officials to find out if you can vote by mail in 2020 and apply for a mail-in absentee ballot online.
  • Visit your state election office website to learn more about absentee voting and eligibility. 

Every State Offers Mail-In Absentee Voting

Each state has mail-in voting, but some allow you to take part only in certain circumstances. 

Request an Absentee Ballot

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 the dates for when your ballot must be postmarked or received.  It’s an important distinction.  

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’ll take your absentee ballot to your designated polling place on Election Day. Your polling place may change, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Check your polling place’s location before you go.

    • 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. 

    • If you forget to bring your absentee ballot with you, you may be able to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted once your election officials verify your voter status.

Know Your Options for Returning Your Absentee Ballot

Check with your 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. 

No Online Voting

  • In federal elections in the United States, you can't vote online. The only way you can vote without going in person to a polling place is to use an absentee ballot.

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.

Please 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 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

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're 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 FPCA 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.

Please 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 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: October 8, 2020

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