ELECTION 2016: Early Voting and Absentee Ballots

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”

                                                                                                        ―Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum Swing

By now, some of you have received absentee and early voting ballots in the mail. I have been fortunate to live in two states, Arizona and California, that allow permanent absentee voting status. Long ago, I enjoyed going to polling locations and casting my vote in person. I believed that my single vote made a difference. I believe that even more today. State and local elections have been won and lost by less than 300 votes. Your vote does make a difference, even in this historically contentious presidential election.

There are three ways for you to vote before Election Day on Tuesday, November 8.

You can use Early Voting, Absentee Voting, or Mail Voting.

But, first. Are you registered to vote? If no, Rock the Vote offers an online registration form for every state.


In 37 states (including three that mail ballots to all voters) and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. No excuse or justification is required.

  • The date on which early voting begins may be as early as 45 days before the election, or as late as the Friday before the election. The average starting time for early voting across all 34 states is 22 days before the election.
  • Early voting typically ends just a few days before Election Day: seven days before the election in two states, on the Thursday before the election in one state, the Friday before in eight states, the Saturday before in seven states, and the Monday before Election Day in 13 states.
  •  Early voting periods range in length from four days to 45 days; the average across all 33 states is 19 days.
  • Of the states that allow early in-person voting, 22 and the District of Columbia allow some weekend early voting.

Saturday: 18 states + the District of Columbia provide for voting on Saturday. 4 additional states (California, Kansas, Vermont and Massachusetts) leave it up to county clerks who may choose to allow Saturday voting.

Sunday: 4 states (Alaska, Illinois, Ohio and Maryland) allow for Sunday voting. 5 states (California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Massachusetts) leave it up to county clerks who may choose to be open on Sundays.


All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters who request one. The voter may return the ballot by mail or in person. In 20 states, an excuse is required, while 27 states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering an excuse. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list: once a voter asks to be added to the list, s/he will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.

Permanent Absentee Voting

Some states permit voters to join a permanent absentee voting list. Once a voter opts in, s/he will receive an absentee ballot automatically for all future elections. This is how I have voted for years. I don’t have to worry about finding my polling location, losing work time, and I am able to do research and vote carefully on my own time. The states that offer permanent absentee voting to any voter are:



District of Columbia



New Jersey



A ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). In-person voting sites may also be available for voters who would like to vote in-person and to provide additional services to voters. Three states mail ballots to all eligible voters for every election. Other states may provide this option for some types of elections.

Three states–Oregon, Washington and Colorado–conduct all elections by mail. A ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter in advance of Election Day, and traditional in-person voting precincts are not available. However these states still provide one or more locations for voters to return mail ballots, vote in-person if they would like, and receive other voter services.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures 2016

This an at-a-glance table by state of pre-election day voting options.


  • Certain elections may be held entirely by mail.
  • Although these states do not have traditional Early Voting, within a certain time, they do allow a voter to apply in person for an absentee ballot without an excuse.
  • Massachusetts has Early Voting only during even-year November elections, beginning in 2016. Currently it does not permit Early Voting in primary or municipal elections.


Do you know where to vote on November 8 if you are not early voting? There are several search engines online, including state-by-state searches. This is a national information database link, which can help you find your voting location. You can also register to vote from this site.



Voter registration has become easier than ever. In addition to traditional locations such as government offices, libraries, and DMVs–the easiest way to register to vote is online. This official link will allow you to register to vote online, by mail, or in person.



 Let your voice be heard.

Your vote is your voice.


Dori Owen

Dori Owen blogs on ArizonaGirlDiary.tumblr.com, is a columnist on FeminineCollective.com, a contributor/editor for The Lithium Chronicles, created the Facebook page Diary of an Arizona Girl, is an author on AskABipolar, was featured in the books FeminineCollective RAW&UNFILTERED VOL I and StigmaFighters Vol II, and is a zealous tweeter as @doriowen. She's a former LA wild child who settled into grownup life as a project manager, collecting an MBA and a few husbands along the way. Dori spent her adult years in Southern California, with a brief stay in Reno, and has now returned to where she ran away from in Arizona. She is a shown artist, writer, and her favorite pastime is upcycling old furniture she finds from thrift stores. She lives with her beloved rescued terrier, Olivia Twist, and the cat who came to visit but stayed. The love of her life is her grown son in Portland, Oregon who very much resents being introduced after her pets. But she she does love him the most.

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