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Data “Deep Dive” Shows Impact of Early, Absentee and Mail Voting on Elections

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Silver Spring, Md. – The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today released a brief on the growing trend of states offering early, no-excuse absentee and mail voting, and the increasing number of voters casting ballots before Election Day. This brief is the second in a series of “deep dives” into election administration trends and voting behavior ahead of the 2018 election cycle. It analyzes data from the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive survey on election administration in the United States identifying national, state and local trends.
“During the past decade, one of the most significant changes we’ve seen in election administration is the number of voters who receive and cast ballots before Election Day,” said EAC Director of Research Sean Greene, who leads the EAVS.  “As more states consider implementing election administration practices such as vote by mail and early voting, election officials can use EAVS data as a resource that provides information about how these trends may impact voter turnout and experience.” 

Among the findings of the new brief are: 

  • The percentage of voters who cast their ballots on a voting machine at a polling place on Election Day has declined steadily over the past decade, while the number of states offering early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and vote by mail has increased.
  • The total number of voters who voted early, absentee or by mail more than doubled from 24.9 million in 2004 to 57.2 million in 2016, representing an increase from one in five of all ballots cast to two in five of all ballots cast.
  • The number of U.S. citizens voting early more than doubled from nearly 10.2 million early ballots cast in 2004 to 24.1 million early ballots cast in 2016.
  • In 2016, 16 states showed a combined percentage of greater than 50 percent of votes cast early, by mail, or via absentee voting.

The EAC conducts the EAVS to meet its Help America Vote Act of 2002 charge to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information with respect to the administration of federal elections. Additionally, the EAVS fulfills EAC data collection requirements contained in both the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

For more information about the EAVS Deep Data Dives or to speak with Greene, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-897-9285. 

Read the full EAVS Deep Dive on Early, Absentee and Mail Voting

Read the previous EAVS Deep Dive on Registering to Vote

Read the 2016 EAVS REPORT.

Visit the 2016 EAVS WEBPAGE containing state-specific data and other resources.


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The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit  


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