Who can vote by mail?

Whereas only three states officially vote-by-mail, every state has a form of paper ballots: absentee voting. Absentee voting (aka “mail-in voting” and “by-mail voting”) is conducted via a paper ballot which must be returned or postmarked (states vary) by Election Day.

Before “early voting,” voting absentee was the only way a voter could cast a ballot if she was going to be out-of-town on election day. The advent of early voting alleviated the challenge of travel but not the challenge of getting off work.

There are special rules for voters living or visiting abroad and for members of the military and their families who are living somewhere other than their legal voting residence. For more information, see the Overseas Vote Foundation.

All states must provide absentee voters with the ability to cast a ballot. However, states can set the conditions under which they will accept an absentee request.

If you choose to go to the polls,  ask for a paper ballot when you vote on Election Day.

This is not a radical proposal: paper ballots are secure and, when marked correctly, not prone to interpretation. And it’s almost the norm:  in 21 states and the District of Columbia, voters will use only paper ballots next month.

States that vote on paper but not by mail (18 + DC)

  • AL, CT, DC, IA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, ND, NE, NH, NM, NY, RI, SD, VA, VT

States that vote by-mail (3)

  • CO, OR, WA

States that offer no-excuse absentee voting (27 + DC)

  • AL, AZ, CA, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, KS, ME, MD, MN, MT, NE, NJ, NC, NC, NM, NV, OH, OK, SD, UT, VT, WI, WY

States that require an excuse for absentee voting (20)

  •  AL, AK, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MA, MI, MO, MS, NH, NY, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV

States that require an excuse for absentee voting and have no early voting (13)

  • AL, DE, KY, MA, MI, MO, MS, NH, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA

States with permanent absentee status (9 + DC)

Once a voter opts into permanent absentee status, she will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.

  • AZ, CA, DC, HI, MN, MO, NJ, UT

Source: NCSL