State Watch

Here’s where your state stands on mail-in voting

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the country, more states have embraced mail-in voting as a way to prevent large crowds from gathering at polling places. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended states encourage voters to cast ballots through the mail and a number of governors and elections officials have begun taking steps to make doing so easier while litigation over the issue continues. 

But President Trump and other Republicans have suggested the practice invites fraud, despite studies suggesting otherwise. 

Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — currently conduct elections almost entirely by mail. 

The rest of the states can be divided into two categories: those that allow any registered voter to apply for mail-in ballots, and those that require an excuse. 

Increasing voting by mail also comes at a cost for states. Though the CARES Act allocated $400 million in election assistance for states, experts say more is required, even as states face budget fallouts spurred by the sudden economic crisis. 

Here is where all the states currently fall on mail-in voting:


All mail-in voting

These states automatically send all registered voters mail-in ballots:  

Colorado: Colorado has been sending all registered voters mail-in ballots since 2013.  

Hawaii: Hawaii will move to an all-mail election system this year for the first time, starting with its Aug. 8 primary, followed by the Nov. 3 general election. 

Oregon: Oregon has been processing mail-in ballots longer than any other state, and in 2000 became the first state to conduct a presidential election completely by mail.   

Utah: Of the states that primarily vote through the mail, Utah is the only one that leans Republican. Sen. Mitt Romney (R) has used his state as an example to push back on claims from the president that voting by mail disadvantages Republicans.

Utah typically allows people to vote in-person if they choose, but the June 30 primary will be counted entirely by mail-in and drop-off voting due to the coronavirus pandemic. Plans for the Nov. 3 general election have not yet been finalized. 

Washington: Every registered voter in Washington receives a mail-in ballot prior to an election.  


No-excuse mail-in voting

These are states where you can apply for a mail-in ballot and do not need an excuse: 

Alaska: Voters in Alaska do not need to cite a reason for why they choose to vote absentee. The Alaska state legislature in March passed a law that gives Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) the power to host all mail-in elections throughout 2020.  

However, in May Meyer announced that the state’s August primary election and November election are on track to take place as usual, with extra sanitary precautions. 

Arizona: Arizona voters do not need an excuse to vote through the mail, and according to the Arizona Secretary of State site, most residents already do. 

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) announced in March that the state is sending mail-in voting applications to every registered voter in light of the pandemic.  

California: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced in May that the state would be sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the state, a decision that’s been challenged by the state’s Republican Party. 

Trump also blasted the announcement, claiming on Twitter the move would lead to widespread fraud in the election.

Newsom’s executive order applied only to the Nov. 3 presidential election. In every other election California voters can request a mail-in ballot without having to cite a reason for doing so. 

District of Columbia: Voters in Washington, D.C., can request a mail-in ballot without citing an excuse.  

The District’s Board of Elections has begun encouraging mail-in voting to avoid long lines at polling locations, as was the case during their primary election on June 2 because some voters didn’t receive absentee ballots in time, NPR reported. 

Florida: Voters who live in Florida can vote absentee without having to cite an excuse. Trump, who changed his residency from New York to Florida last year, has used Florida’s mail-in voting system.

Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, filed a lawsuit against the state demanding it relax voting laws. The group is asking the state to accept ballots sent by election day, instead of the current policy requiring the ballots to be received by election day, and argues the postage required to send the ballot amounts to a poll tax.

Georgia: Georgia election officials sent absentee ballot request forms to the state’s 6.9 million registered voters for the June 9 primary. 

Voters in Georgia don’t need to cite a reason for wanting to vote absentee. They can request their ballot up to 180 days before an election.

Idaho: Any registered voter in Idaho can apply for mail-in voting.  

Secretary of State Lawrence Denney (R) has said that although the state has seen an increase applications for absentee ballots, it does not anticipate moving to an all-mail system anytime soon. 

Illinois: Registered voters in Illinois do not need an excuse to vote absentee. Last month, the state legislature passed a bill that would expand mail-in voting by sending ballot applications to any voter who applied for an official ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal elections or the March 2020 primary.

Iowa: Any registered voter in Iowa qualifies for mail-in voting. 

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced Wednesday that the state’s June 2 primary saw record-breaking turnout after he decided to mail absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter and extend the early voting period for mailed ballots from 29 days to 40 days.

Kansas: Voters in Kansas do not need an excuse to request a mail-in ballot.

Local election officials can decide whether to send mail-in ballot applications to all voters or only those who request them. Kansans are requesting mail-in ballots for the August primary and November general election at record rates.

Maine: All registered voters in Maine can request an absentee ballot. 

Maryland: All registered voters in Maryland are able to request absentee ballots.

In an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the state planned to send every registered voter a mail-in ballot for the June 2 primary election. According to The Washington Post, at least a million of those were delayed.

Michigan: All registered voters in Michigan are eligible for mail-in voting. Last month the state invested $4.5 million in sending 7.7 million registered voters mail-in ballot applications ahead of the August primary and November general election. 

That prompted Trump to threaten to withhold federal funding from Michigan, claiming incorrectly the secretary of state had sent ballots — not ballot applications — to voters and had done so illegally.

Minnesota: All registered voters in Minnesota are eligible to vote by mail. 

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has said he favors expanding mail-in voting in the state and is considering the “next steps” before the state’s Aug. 11 primary and the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

Montana: All registered voters in Montana are able to vote by mail. 

This year the Montana secretary of state decided the state’s June 2 primary would be primarily by mail, and the state saw record-breaking turnout.

However, it’s still unclear if the general election will be held the same way since the governor’s state of emergency expires in July.  

Nebraska: Any registered voter in Nebraska is eligible to vote by mail. 

The state broke records for voter turnout in its May 12 primary. 

Nevada: Nevada will have an all mail-in election for its June 9 primary as part of a temporary rule the state put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus. A state court has decided that it will not rule on lawsuits challenging the temporary policy until July, so until then it is not clear to what extent Nevada voters will be able to vote through the mail or in-person in the November presidential election. 

Before the temporary rule, Nevada registered voters were able to obtain an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse. 

New Jersey: Any registered voter in New Jersey is eligible to vote by mail. 

The state held its first completely mail-in election in May, which had greater turnout but saw delayed results. Election officials in the state are preparing for another primarily mail-in election for their July 7 primary.

New Mexico: All registered voters in New Mexico qualify to vote by mail. This year every eligible voter was sent an application without having to request one.  

North Carolina: Any registered voter in North Carolina is eligible for mail-in voting. 

The state legislature passed a bill last week that would divert funds to make it easier for people to vote by mail as the state anticipates higher turnout by mail in upcoming elections. 

North Dakota: All registered voters in North Dakota are able to vote by mail in the state’s June 9 election.

An injunction granted Wednesday by a federal judge bars North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger and other election officials from rejecting any mail-in ballot on the basis of a “signature mismatch” without having in place adequate notice and remedy procedures. 

Ohio: Though every registered voter in Ohio is able to vote by mail, the Democrats in the state legislature and Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose disagree on how to proceed with the general election. 

Democrats introduced legislation that would increase voting by mail and LaRose has proposed extending early voting to avoid close contact at polls.  

Oklahoma: The Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill that allows all voters in the 2020 elections that meet certain coronavirus-related criteria to cite “physically incapacitated” as a reason to vote by mail.

State and county election officials have seen an influx of people requesting absentee ballots this year for the state’s June 30 primary, the Oklahoman reports.

Pennsylvania: Most Pennsylvania voters who participated in the June 2 primary did so by mail, which led to delayed results, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

The state legislature passed a law allowing anyone who votes by mail in the primary to easily request a mail-in ballot for the November election.

South Dakota: This year South Dakota sent mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters in the state for the June 2 primary, which resulted in record-breaking numbers of mail-in ballots, the Argus Leader reported.  

Vermont: All voters in Vermont can request a mail-in ballot. 

The state legislature is poised to pass a bill that would give Vermont’s Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos unilateral authority to expand mail-in voting without approval from Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Condos and Democrats in the state legislature are seeking to send every registered voter in the state a returnable ballot for the November presidential election, the VTDigger reports. 

Virginia: Under current law, Virginians must list a state-authorized reason for why they cannot vote in person. But a law passed this year that will take effect in July allows voters to cast absentee ballots without any formal excuse.

Last month a federal judge in Virginia denied a request from voters seeking to challenge the state’s newly passed absentee voting legislation.  

Wisconsin: Voters in Wisconsin are eligible for mail-in voting without having to provide an excuse. In May, the Wisconsin Elections Commission approved a plan to send absentee ballot applications to more than 2.7 million registered voters, whether or not they requested one. 

Wyoming: Voters in Wyoming don’t need to cite a reason for wanting to vote absentee.


Excuse required for absentee voting

These are states where you can apply for a mail-in ballot but must list an excuse for why you are not voting in person: 

Alabama: In Alabama you can apply for a mail-in ballot if you are away from the state, ill, are working a shift greater than 10 hours on a polling day, are a caregiver or incarcerated. 

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) tweeted at the president last month assuring him that the state would not move toward having direct mail-in voting, as others have amid the pandemic. 

Arkansas: In Arkansas you can apply for an absentee ballot if you are disabled, ill, away from home, or “Uniformed Services, merchant marines or the spouse or a dependent family member and are away from your polling location due to the member’s active duty status.”

Connecticut: In Connecticut you can vote by mail if you are out of town, sick or disabled, in the military, or if your “religious beliefs prevent you from performing secular activities like voting on Election Day.”

Last month Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (D) said the state will send out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state and pay the postage for their ballots. 

Merrill is pushing the state legislature to add “a global pandemic” to the list of reasons somebody can vote by mail. 

Delaware: In Delaware, voters can vote by mail if they are out of town, sick or disabled, have a religious commitment or are in the armed services. This year the state will be sending absentee voting applications to all registered voters.  

Gov. John Carney’s (D) state of emergency order includes a measure that allows voters concerned about the coronavirus to qualify as “sick” or “physically disabled,” allowing them to vote absentee. Voters in Delaware can also request an absentee ballot online. 

Indiana: Despite Indiana amending its mail-in voting rules to allow all registered voters to qualify for mail-in voting in the June 2 primary, IndyStar reported many still opted to vote in person.

Outside a pandemic, voters in Indiana could qualify for mail-in voting if they are 65 or older, disabled or sick, have a religious commitment, are a member of the military or a public safety officer, can’t find transportation to a polling station or are designated as a “serious sex offender” by the state. 

Kentucky: The state announced in April that due to the coronavirus pandemic, any registered voter is eligible to vote absentee for elections happening this year, but voters normally need to provide a reason when requesting a ballot. 

Louisiana: Louisiana voters can vote by mail if they are out of town, sick or disabled, have a religious commitment, are in the armed services, are incarcerated or have jury duty.

In May the state legislature rejected a bill that would have expanded mail-in voting.

Massachusetts: Under Massachusetts law, anyone who is disabled, out of town on Election Day, or has a religious belief preventing them from voting at their polling place can qualify for mail-in voting.

The state legislature passed a bill this year adding that any person taking precautions related to COVID-19 can also qualify for mail-in voting this year.

Mississippi: Voters in Mississippi can vote by mail if they are above 65, if they are sick or disabled, have work conflicts, are away from home or have educational commitments.

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) has opposed expanded mail-in elections, but said voters can apply for a mail-in ballot claiming “temporary illness” and it would be up to local election officials to approve it or not.

Missouri: Voters in Missouri can qualify for mail-in voting if they are out of town, sick or disabled, have a religious commitment or are in the armed services. 

The state legislature passed a bill that would allow anyone with a notary’s signature to qualify for mail-in voting, but it awaits the governor’s signature and would only apply to the state’s August election and the November presidential election. 

New Hampshire: Voters in New Hampshire can qualify for mail-in voting if they are sick, disabled, in the military, out of town, have a religious commitment or working during polling hours. 

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced in April that any registered voter will be allowed to vote mail-in throughout the end of the year.

New York: Voters in New York can request a mail-in ballot if they are away from home on Election Day, if they are ill or disabled, a resident of a veteran’s hospital or incarcerated. 

In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order that requires election officials to send mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters, including inactive voters, for this year’s June 23 primary and Nov. 3 general elections.

Any voter is able to cite “temporary illness” as a reason for voting by mail during the pandemic.


Rhode Island: Rhode Island lists several excuses to vote absentee, but also gives the option to choose “No specific reason necessary.” The state’s June 2 primary had widespread use of mail-in ballots, with election officials reducing the number of polling locations in the state from about 180 to 47. 

South Carolina: Voters in South Carolina can vote absentee if they are out of town, sick or disabled, have a religious commitment or are in the armed services. 

The state legislature voted in early May to allow anyone to vote absentee during the 2020 elections during the pandemic.

Tennessee: On Thursday a Tennessee court ruled the state must make absentee voting available to every eligible voter for all elections in 2020, including the Aug. 6 primary and Nov. 3 general election.

Outside of that ruling, only people who are sick, disabled, traveling or elderly or eligible for mail-in voting.

Texas: The Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that being afraid of contracting the coronavirus alone is not a “disability” and therefore all self-identified able-bodied people living in the state must gather at a polling location. However, Texas voters are still able to self-identify as disabled without having to produce evidence. 

On Thursday a federal court temporarily blocked a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

West Virginia:  In West Virginia, voters are eligible for mail-in voting if they are disabled or ill, are working a shift greater than 10 hours on a polling day, are a caregiver or incarcerated. 

The state amended that rule for all 2020 elections, where all registered voters in West Virginia are eligible to vote absentee.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Donald Trump Elections Gavin Newsom John Carney mail-in voting Mitt Romney Postal voting Tim Walz Voting

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