UPDATED: 5/20/20

All states allow some form of absentee voting. Though absentee ballots are typically used by voters who are out of town on Election Day, military personnel stationed overseas, and the home-bound, they can be used by voters more broadly as a way to vote by mail and avoid crowded polling sites. Most states provide absentee ballots upon request to any registered voter who asks – no excuses required (to see your states’ excuse policy, see our map below).  

Learn about absentee ballot options in your state and use them as part of your nonprofit’s voter engagement strategy. 

Vote by Mail Policies

  • Vote at Home (VAH): All voters automatically receive ballots by mail for every election. They can return them by mail, drop them off, or cast ballots at staffed vote centers
  • No Excuse: Voters don’t need an excuse, but need to ask for an absentee ballot through a form/application
  • No Excuse/PMB: Once voters sign up for absentee voting, they are mailed a ballot every election unless they move or opt out.
  • Excuse (COVID Exception): Voters must have an excuse to request an absentee ballot, but the state has allowed any COVID related measure to be a valid excuse
  • Excuse (Age exception): Voters must have an excuse to request an absentee ballot, but that requirement is waived for voters over a certain age
  • Excuse: Voters must have an excuse to request an absentee ballot. Reasons can include travel, age, or disabilities
  • Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA): Service members, their eligible family members, and U.S. citizens abroad are guaranteed the right to vote absentee in all Federal elections. UOCAVA and other statutes provide protections for these citizens. They may use a special process to request, receive, and return their absentee ballots.

Challenges: Some communities such as homeless or Native American communities without standard addresses, visually impaired, and non-English communities face unique challenges that need special attention. It’s a reason that in-person voting is still necessary as a fall-back. It also requires special equipment for election administrators and added expenses for printing and mailing.

Recent Absentee Ballot Changes: In an effort to cut down on COVID-19 exposure at in-person voting, the following states have changed their absentee ballot process and are now shipping ballot request forms to all registered voters automatically.

  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Michigan 
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia

Recent All-Mail Election States: These states have recently changed policies to send registered voters absentee ballots in the mail to avoid in-person voting.

  • California
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota

Options for Requesting Absentee Ballots:

  • Mail: All states have paper forms you can use to request an absentee ballot (except states that preemptively send it to everyone, rendering such requests moot)
  • Direct Online portal: Ten states – Delaware, D.C., Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia. 
  • Phone: Six states – Arizona, Florida, Maine, Mississippi, Vermont and Wyoming.

Email links with absentee voting information to your members:

  • Voter ID for Absentee Ballots — Check out Vote Riders state-by-state guide to see if voter ID is needed to request a ballot or submit a ballot 
  • Voting in a primary: For remaining state primary elections, the ACLU has a guide with deadlines and links for requesting absentee ballots.

  • Online tool: You can use Vote.org’s absentee ballot tool across all 50 states to see absentee ballot requirements and fill out a mailable PDF to request a ballot. You will need to return it before your state’s deadline.  

Learn if your nonprofit can distribute and/or collect absentee ballot request forms:

  • Can you distribute or collect forms? Some states have rules on whether a nonprofit (considered a third party group) can give or help voters submit absentee ballot request forms. See our “Collecting Absentee Ballot Request Forms” page to learn more.

Deadlines to Request for Primary Elections — See our updated guide

Deadlines to Request for General Election:

  • Oct 20, 2020 (NV only)
  • Oct 23, 2020 (AZ, TX, ID, NE)
  • Oct. 24 or later (All other states)