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Early Voting Laws: How Millions of Americans Have Already Voted

November 6, 2016







More than 40 million estimated votes have already been cast already across 38 states with early voting. Although early ballots are not actually counted until Election Day, various data companies analyze voter lists and try to connect returned ballots with demographic and registration information, such as party registration. Their findings indicate who is voting and which party is turning out to vote.

Image Source: ncsl.org

Image Source: ncsl.org

According to CNN’s early voting analysis, registered Republicans have cast more early ballots in Arizona, Florida, Ohio. But in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and North Carolina, Democrats have cast more early votes. In addition, analysts see a surge in early voting by Latinos in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, which is expected to boost votes for Clinton.

Thirty-seven (37) states currently permit some way to cast a ballot prior to Election Day. In only 13 states, early voting is not available and an excuse, such as residing abroad, is required to request an absentee ballot.

There are three ways that American citizens can vote early prior to Election Day:

  1. Early Voting: In 37 states (including 3 that mail ballots to all voters) and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. No excuse or justification is required.
  1. Absentee Voting: Absentee voting is typically conducted by mail-in paper ballot prior to the day of the election. All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters who request one. The voter may return the ballot by mail or in person. In 20 states, an excuse is required, while 27 states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering an excuse.
  1. Mail Voting: Three states, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, automatically mail ballots to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). In-person voting sites must also be available for voters who would like to vote in-person and to provide additional services to voters.

Early voting typically ends just a few days before Election Day.

All states permit members of the military who are stationed overseas, their dependents, and other U.S. citizens living abroad to vote by absentee ballot.

Why Is Early Voting Offered?

It was only in 1845 that the federal government set a uniform, single day for voting for president: the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. However, on Tuesdays people are usually really busy with work, school, or cool hobbies. Prior to 1845, voting was usually held over several days so rural folks could travel to cities to cast their ballots.

As you can see from the below video, the goals of early voting are usually to increase voter participation and relieve congestion at polling stations on election day.

Video Link

Early Voting in California

In California, you can vote early in person or by mail without having to present any excuse. Voters can even obtain permanent absentee status, which means that once a voter asks to be added to the absentee voter list, s/he will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections. In California early voting begins 29 days before Election Day and ends the Monday before Election Day.

Did you vote early? Do you think the election should be spread out over more than one day or fall on a weekend instead?

Posted by Mary Mock at 3:53 am - 1 comment
  • Redrose1

    We early vote and the time we do this there is not a lot of people early voting because they are at work. I believe early voting works out just fine. I can’t see changing to weekend voting or spread out over more than one day would actually be better. I believe that there is the option of mail in if needed and can be used. Workers in general use the weekends to get ready for the coming week and besides the besides some people work on Saturdays as well.

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