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Vote by Mail: A State-by-State Guide to Absentee Ballot Voting

Rivan V. Stinson, Associate Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Casting your ballot this November could be a lot more complicated thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. With health authorities recommending people continue to social distance, the idea of voting by mail is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Five states -- Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington -- already conduct their elections by mail. Ballots are automatically sent to registered voters at their last known address. They must then complete and send it back to their local board of elections by a specified date. The Kiplinger Letter expects more states to follow suit as the presidential election draws closer.

SEE ALSO: 9 Ways COVID-19 Will Change the 2020 Elections

An option for registered voters in states where voting by mail isn't the status quo (and who are concerned about Election Day crowds) is to sign up for absentee voting on their own. To do this, you'll need to go to your state's board of elections website, complete and submit the absentee ballot application electronically or print it out and return it by mail as soon as possible -- especially if you have to mail the application in. Once approved, you'll be able to vote from home and avoid any potential exposure to the coronavirus. If you're not a registered voter, you need to register with your home state as soon as possible. To do so, you need to go to your state's voter registration website or visit www.vote.gov.

In 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, any qualified voter can request an absentee ballot without needing an excuse. For the rest of the country, a valid reason is needed to be approved for absentee voting. What qualifies as an acceptable excuse varies by state, but includes performing jury duty, being an election worker or being out of town at the time of the election.

This year, you may not even need to request an absentee ballot. For primary elections this spring, some states, such as Maryland, sent absentee ballots to all registered voters.

In the table below, we've highlighted the deadlines for when absentee ballot applications need to be received for Election Day in November and if an excuse is required. Take a look.

SEE ALSO: 17 States That Will Gain or Lose Electoral-College Votes After the 2020 Census

StateApplication Deadline Date via MailExcuse Needed
(Y/N)
Alabama Voters must submit application no later than 5 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Alaska Voters must submit application no later than 10 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Arizona Voters must submit application no later than 11 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Arkansas Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
California Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020. N
Colorado Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail. N/A
Connecticut Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Delaware Voters must submit application no later than 4 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
District of Columbia Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Florida Voters must submit application no later than 10 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Georgia Voters must submit application no later than 5 p.m. the Friday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Hawaii Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail. N/A
Idaho Voters must submit application by Oct. 23, 2020. N
Illinois Voters must submit application by Oct. 29, 2020. N
Indiana Voters must submit application by Oct. 22, 2020. Y
Iowa Voters must submit application no later than the Saturday 10 days prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Kansas Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020 N
Kentucky Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Louisiana Voters must submit application by 4:30 p.m. 4 days to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Maine Voters must submit application no later than 3 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Maryland Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020. N
Massachusetts Voters must submit application by noon the day prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Michigan Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the Friday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Minnesota Voters must submit application any time of the year except election day. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Mississippi Voters must submit application no later than 8 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further deta Y
Missouri Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the second Wednesday prior to any election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Montana Voters must submit application by noon the day prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Nebraska Voters must submit application by 6 p.m. on the second Friday preceding the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Nevada Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the fourteenth calendar day preceding an election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
New Hampshire Voters must submit application as soon as possible. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
New Jersey Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
New Mexico Voters must submit application by Oct. 30, 2020. N
New York Voters must submit application no later than 7 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y*
North Carolina Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the Tuesday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
North Dakota Voters must submit application by Nov. 2, 2020. N
Ohio Voters must submit application no later than 3 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Oklahoma Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Oregon Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail. N/A
Pennsylvania Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2020. N
Puerto Rico Voters must submit application no later than 60 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Rhode Island Voters must submit application by 4 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2020. Y*
South Carolina Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2020. Y
South Dakota Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2020. N
Tennessee Voters must submit application by Oct. 27, 2020. Y
Texas Voters must submit application by Oct. 23, 2020. Y
Utah Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail. N/A
Vermont Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the day before the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Virginia Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. the Tuesday prior to the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Washington Voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail. N/A
West Virginia Voters must submit application no later than 6 days prior to election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. Y
Wisconsin Voters must submit application by 5 p.m. on the Thursday preceding the election. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N
Wyoming Voters must submit application any time of the year except election day. Check your state's board of elections site for further details. N

* For New York and Rhode Island you can write in "potential to contract COVID-19" as an excuse to request an absentee ballot.

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