By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
Being far from home on Election Day is not the death knell to casting a ballot. You can still vote and help set the course on national, state and local issues.
All states allow advance voting. Some states allow mail-in ballots, commonly referred to as absentee ballots. Other states allow voting in person at locations leading up to Election Day. This is known as early voting. Elsewhere, some states conduct elections by mail. Your local elections office or secretary of state’s office should have details.
There are 27 states that offer “no-excuse” absentee voting. Seven states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey and Utah – allow permanent no excuse absentee voting. Other states permit voters to cast absentee ballots only under a limited set of circumstances.
In most states, to vote by absentee ballot, you must:
- Request an absentee ballot from the appropriate election official; deadlines to request ballots vary by state;
- Receive your ballot – which can be tricky for truckers on the road. Absentee ballots are usually mailed to voters up to 30 days before each election. But if you don’t time it right, you won’t be home to receive it and send it back in on time;
- Return your ballot by the deadline. Again, deadlines vary from state to state. But no matter which state, if you miss the deadline, your vote will not be counted.
According to the Federal Election Commission, absentee ballots – or even permanent absentee ballots – can be requested by contacting a county clerk, county auditor, county registrar or supervisor of elections, or the board of elections – depending on the state. Phone numbers for those offices should be in the government pages of your local telephone book.
Some type of early voting is offered in 32 states. It allows voters to simply decide to vote early. No-excuse early voting differs from absentee voting. Voters may visit an election official’s office – or in some states other satellite voting locations – and cast ballots in person.
The time periods for early voting vary from state to state. The average starting time for early voting is 22 days before Election Day.
Oregon and Washington are the only states to run their elections entirely by mail. A ballot is sent to every registered voter prior to Election Day. In addition, there are 17 states that allow certain elections to be held by mail. LL