3/26 UPDATE: If you are in a state that’s still having primaries, now is the time to promote absentee ballots. For others, it’s time to study up in advance of November. In the times of COVID-19, the widespread use of absentee ballots can be an effective strategy for practicing social distancing while ensuring elections continue.  

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. 17 states currently require some excuse, travel or otherwise*. Five Vote-by-Mail states (CO, HI, OR, UT, WA) simply mail paper ballots to all voters. NOTE: For the rescheduled June 2 presidential primary, Indiana has made absentee ballots available without excuse to all registered voters.

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

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.

Map and Key from Vote-at-Home Institute

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)

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: 25 states – AZ, MT, MN, UT, WI, NV, KS, AL, GA, ID, MI, NE, NC (verified not in 2020), ND, Excuse Required: ID, TN, TX, SC, AR, CT, MA, MO, NH, NY, VA, WV

Email links with absentee voting information to your members:

  • 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 end of the “Requesting an Absentee Ballot” section on this NCSL page for third party collection rules. ​