- The midterm elections are next month, with Democrats and Republicans battling for control of the House and Senate.
- Although every state has absentee voting, deadlines and rules on who can take part vary.
- Here’s what to know about requesting, submitting and tracking your absentee ballot.
With less than a month until the U.S. midterm elections, voters who are faced with circumstances that make it difficult to vote at the polls on election day may opt for an absentee ballot instead.
Election day occurs Nov. 8 in every state, but each state has their own deadlines for absentee ballot voters.
The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing your request to vote absentee and your voted ballot at least one week prior to your state’s deadlines. Although, some states will accept ballots postmarked on Election Day that arrive within a specific timeframe.
Here’s what you need to know about submitting absentee ballots in every state, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, nonprofit organization Vote.org, and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
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How to get a vote-by-mail absentee ballot
With the exception of eight states that hold all-mail elections in which all registered voters are mailed ballots – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington – absentee ballots can be requested by visiting or calling your local board of elections.
- All states accept mailed ballot requests. Most will accept electronic requests, such as email or by fax, and provide the form online to fill out, print and mail to local election officials.
- Some states have ballot drop boxes and many let you return your ballot in–person at your local election office or another location.
- At least 19 states offer online portals where voters can request an absentee ballot. Click here to see which states offer absentee ballot requests online.
- Not sure where to find the website you need? Visit the online directory of election offices to find local contact information in your state.
- Be mindful of when mail is delivered and picked up at your mailbox.
What if you haven’t received a ballot and the election is close? Can you track your ballot?
- Many states have tools to check the status of voters’ ballots.
- Search the online ballot tracking chart.
- If your state offers ballot tracking, there will be an X next to it – click on that for more information.
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Do you need a reason to vote absentee?
- Some states require a specific reason that affirms the voter is unable to vote in-person on election day and acceptable reasons vary by state. Most reasons include being unable to get to your polling place due to illness, injury, or disability, business travel or vacation, being a student at an out-of-state college or university.
- Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot option for voters who want to vote absentee in future elections.
- In emergency cases, absentee ballots can be requested after normal deadlines.
- A list of states requiring “excuses” to vote absentee can be found here.
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Can you still vote in-person if you have an absentee ballot?
Every state has different rules to vote in person on election day if you received a mail-in ballot. Requirements may include taking the absentee ballot to a designated polling place and exchanging an absentee ballot for an in-person ballot, completing the absentee ballot and handing it in or casting a provisional ballot.
Early voting vs. in-person absentee voting
Early and in-person absentee voting are similar, but NCSL categorizes them separately for being functionally different. Early voting is akin to voting on Election Day, whereas in-person absentee voting requires a voter to request, complete and sign a ballot in a polling place.
- 46 states and five U.S. territories offer early in-person voting.
- Early voting can begin as soon as 55 days before an election. The average number of days allotted for early in-person voting is 23.
- Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, and New Hampshire residents cannot vote early unless they’re deemed an eligible absentee voter by the state.
- “No-excuse” absentee voting – available in 35 states and the District of Columbia – allows voters to request and cast an absentee or mail-in ballot without a specific reason.
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Know your state’s deadlines
See Vote.org’s list of deadlines or click the map below and be sure to check with state election resources for the latest voting guidance.
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.
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