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Where your state stands on voting by mail

  • Where your state stands on voting by mail

    Whether or not registered voters should be able to mail in a vote has long been a contentious topic. The 2020 presidential election is unlike any election before it due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Large gatherings such as in-person voting could result in the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which states want to avoid. Due to this reason, many states have amended voter laws to allow an exception for mail-in ballots this year.

    Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 5-year estimates, August 2020 information compiled by RepresentUs and The Brookings Institution, and each state's official website, Stacker compiled the mail-in voting policies and the voting-eligible population for every state. Deadlines to request and submit absentee ballots vary by state, as do requirements like notary or witness signatures on absentee ballots and whether copies of photo IDs are necessary for ballots to be counted.

    Many Americans wonder whether a more significant number of mail-in ballots will show a bigger voter turnout. However, not all states are on board with widespread absentee ballots, and have not amended laws to make voting easier. A few states require voters to have a valid excuse (usually military, age, religious, disability, or absentee reasons) to request a mail-in ballot.

    Oregon, Washington, and Utah stand out as the few states that automatically send absentee ballots to voters every year. Oregon began sending ballots to voters in 2000, and the state has seen a much more massive voter turnout as a result.

    Other states with a large voter population, such as New York, have amended state law this year and are expected to make significant changes in the upcoming presidential election. New York will send absentee ballots to active and inactive voters this year, which will likely make a huge impact, as there are 13,686,685 residents of voting age.

    States that do not allow for mail-in ballots without a valid excuse may see a decrease in votes this year, as many voters do not want to risk contracting COVID-19 to cast a vote. Allowing a broader sampling of voters to cast a mail-in ballot does make it easier for people to vote. One downside to mail-in voting is that it takes longer to count votes. Recent moves by the United States Postal Service’s new postmaster general prompted fears that mail delays would cause votes to go uncounted; on Aug. 18 it was announced that the policy changes resulting in delays would be halted until after the presidential election. It’s unclear if the USPS will undo cuts already in place or just delay additional measures from being implemented.

    Read on to find out the voting requirements in every state.

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  • Alabama

    - Estimated voting-age population: 3,671,110
    - State mail-in voting status: temporarily allowing vote by mail options due to the COVID-19 crisis
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 29, 2020
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: postmarked by Nov. 2, 2020 and received by 12 p.m. Nov. 3, 2020 (by mail); Nov. 2, 2020 by 5:00 p.m. (in person)
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: yes
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: yes
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: yes

    Alabama allows mail-in ballots for those working shifts lasting more than 10 hours on voting day. People are also eligible for mail-in ballots if they are caregivers, ill, not living in the state, or incarcerated.

  • Alaska

    - Estimated voting-age population: 530,385
    - State mail-in voting status: any voter can request a vote by mail ballot (no excuse required)
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 24, 2020
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: postmarked on or before Election Day
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: yes
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    No reason is needed to vote absentee in the state of Alaska. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer in March was given the right to allow entirely mail-in elections this year.

  • Arizona

    - Estimated voting-age population: 4,812,764
    - State mail-in voting status: any voter can request a vote by mail ballot (no excuse required)
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 23, 2020 by 5:00 p.m.
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    Arizona residents do not need a reason to request a mail-in ballot. Most state residents already vote by mail, based on data from the secretary of state website, which also lets voters join the permanent early voting list.

  • Arkansas

    - Estimated voting-age population: 2,195,870
    - State mail-in voting status: temporarily allowing vote by mail options due to the COVID-19 crisis
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 27, 2020 (by mail); by close of business Nov. 2, 2020 (in person)
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: Oct. 27, 2020 (by mail); by close of business Nov. 2, 2020 (in person)
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: yes

    Arkansas requires that voters submit an application for an absentee ballot. Arkansas’s legislature recently changed the requirements for mail-in voting, declaring those “who conclude their attendance at the poll raises concerns to their health or the health of others as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” may request and submit absentee ballots.

  • California

    - Estimated voting-age population: 25,232,634
    - State mail-in voting status: vote by mail is the default (all voters are mailed a ballot)
    --- Deadline to request ballot: not applicable
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: postmarked by Election Day and received within 17 days (by mail); by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day (in person)
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    California usually sends mail-in ballots just to those who request them. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in May declaring all registered voters would be sent a mail-in ballot to minimize risks to voters during the coronavirus pandemic.

     

  • Colorado

    - Estimated voting-age population: 3,979,325
    - State mail-in voting status: vote by mail is the default (all voters are mailed a ballot)
    --- Deadline to request ballot: not applicable
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: mail ballots must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    All Colorado voters receive mail-in ballots. The state began mailing ballots to everyone registered to vote in 2013, regardless of their geographic location or other factors.

  • Connecticut

    - Estimated voting-age population: 2,600,979
    - State mail-in voting status: temporarily allowing vote by mail options due to the COVID-19 crisis
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Nov. 2, 2020
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 3, 2020 and received by Nov. 5, 2020
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    Connecticut voters can request an absentee ballot if they are out of the state, sick or disabled, or in the military, or if a religious belief prevents in-person attendance. The state in 2020 announced all voters would be sent a ballot, regardless of status, due to the global pandemic.

  • Delaware

    - Estimated voting-age population: 704,108
    - State mail-in voting status: temporarily allowing vote by mail options due to the COVID-19 crisis
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 30, 2020
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: must be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    Delaware voters can request an absentee ballot if they are sick, out of the state, disabled, or part of the armed services, or have a religious reason. In 2020, voters that feel unsafe voting in person due to the global pandemic can request an absentee ballot.

  • Florida

    - Estimated voting-age population: 14,724,113
    - State mail-in voting status: any voter can request a vote by mail ballot (no excuse required)
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 24, 2020 by 5:00 p.m.
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: no

    Florida voters do not need a reason to vote absentee and can request a mail-in ballot. Ballots must be received by election day in the state of Florida. Despite undercutting voting by mail, President Donald Trump requested an absentee ballot at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

  • Georgia

    - Estimated voting-age population: 7,254,693
    - State mail-in voting status: any voter can request a vote by mail ballot (no excuse required)
    --- Deadline to request ballot: Oct. 30, 2020
    --- Deadline to submit ballot: must be received by Nov. 3, 2020
    --- Witness signature required to complete ballot: no
    --- Notary (or two witness signatures) required to complete ballot: no
    --- Copy of photo ID required to complete or receive ballot: yes

    Voters in Georgia can request an absentee ballot up to 180 days before an election. No reason is required to vote absentee in the state. Georgia is currently grappling with the potential for tens of thousands of voter registrations to be classified as “inactive,” a purge election officials claim is to keep the voter rolls up to date but that could lead to confusion if people are led to believe they’re ineligible to vote.