United States Election Assistance Comittee

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What is the difference between Absentee and Early Voting?

from: Jessica Myers on Feb 14, 2012

As Primary season rolls on, we receive more and more questions about absentee voting and early voting. Many of the questions are about what makes these two methods of voting different.  The short answer is: each state’s requirements. 

Each state has its own laws and regulations governing the election administration process. Some states allow for absentee voting- generally by mail- if a voter provides an excuse as to why they cannot vote on Election Day.  Other states provide what is known as “No Excuse” absentee voting, which allows voters, based on each state’s requirements, to request an absentee ballot without stating a reason why they are unable to vote on Election Day. In some cases, instead of receiving a ballot by mail for absentee voting, voters can request an absentee ballot in person and vote it in person or mail it back to their local election office.

Certain states allow for early voting which allows qualified voters to cast a ballot in person. Early Voting set up differs from state to state (in those that allow it), but provides designated location(s) and specific times for voters to cast ballots prior to Election Day.

Frequently, the timeframe allotted for absentee voting and early voting overlap, which is part of what makes understanding the difference between the two a bit more difficult.

For more information, EAC has an Election Management Guidelines chapter on absentee voting, and published a whitepaper on UOCAVA voting and registration processes. Also, the National Association of Secretaries of State (@NASSinfo) provides a website where you can find more information on a state by state basis.  Finally, the National Conference of State Legislatures (@NCSLorg) has an excellent summary and map illustrating absentee voting and early voting across the United States.

If you have additional information or questions, please contact Jessica Myers at jmyers@eac.gov or via Twitter (@EACgov).

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2/14/2012 1:28:00 PM
What is the difference between Absentee and Early Voting?

As Primary season rolls on, we receive more and more questions about absentee voting and early voting. Many of the questions are about what makes...