How—and When—to Vote by Mail in Each State

Voting by mail isn't the type of task you can procrastinate.
Voting by mail isn't the type of task you can procrastinate.
Darylann Elmi/iStock via Getty Images

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 at crowded polls and encourage voters to cast their ballots safely, many states are letting constituents vote by mail for this year’s general election. Some, like California and Vermont, are simply sending a ballot to every registered voter, while others are doing away with restrictions on who is permitted to request an absentee ballot.

Below is a list of state deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot (if necessary) and submitting your actual ballot. It’s important to note that these are the absolute final due dates, and some of them don’t factor in time for mail delivery. Minnesota residents, for example, can technically request absentee ballots up until November 2, but that doesn’t leave much time for the mail carrier to deliver the ballot before Election Day on November 3.

And although some states ask that you postmark your ballot application and/or ballot by a certain date, many just require that it be “received” in your county clerk’s office by the deadline. In those cases, it’s up to you to estimate how long you think it’ll take to get there by mail.

In short, if you want to vote without leaving your house this year, you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do so. Submit an application for a mail-in ballot as soon as possible, and then mail in that ballot soon after it arrives. (If you feel more comfortable dropping it off yourself, you probably can—those rules should be available on your state’s website.)

Scroll down to see your state’s deadlines, along with details about how to apply for an absentee ballot.

Alabama

Ballot must be postmarked by November 2 and received by 12 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by October 29.

Alaska

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 24.

Arizona

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 23 at 5 p.m.

Arkansas

Ballot must be received by 7:30 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 27.

California

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 20.
California is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Colorado

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Colorado is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Connecticut

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by November 2.

Delaware

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 30.

Florida

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 24 at 5 p.m.

Georgia

Ballot must be received by November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 30.

Hawaii

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Hawaii is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Idaho

Ballot must be received by November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 23.

Illinois

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by October 29.

Indiana

Ballot must be received by 12 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 22.

Iowa

Ballot must be postmarked by November 2 and received by 12 p.m. on November 9.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by 5 p.m. on October 24.

Kansas

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 6.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 27.

Kentucky

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 6.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 9.

Louisiana

Ballot must be received by 4:30 p.m. on November 2.
Submit your ballot application online here by 4:30 p.m. on October 30.

Maine

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 29.

Maryland

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by 10 a.m. on November 13.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 20.

Massachusetts

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 6.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 28.

Michigan

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 30. 

Minnesota

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 10.
Submit your ballot application online here, to be received “any time during the year, except the day of the election.”

Mississippi

Ballot [PDF] must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 10.
Contact your circuit clerk’s office to request an absentee ballot. You’ll have to meet certain criteria in order to qualify, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has filed a lawsuit asking that those criteria be expanded to better address COVID-19. Follow the organization on Twitter for updates.

Missouri

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by 5 p.m. on October 21.

Montana

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by 12 p.m. on November 2.

Nebraska

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 23.

Nevada

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 10.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by 5 p.m. on October 20.

New Hampshire

Ballot [PDF] must be received by 5 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by 5 p.m. on November 2.

New Jersey

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by October 27.

New Mexico

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 20.

New York

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 10.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 27.

North Carolina

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by 5 p.m. on November 6.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 27.

North Dakota

Ballot must be postmarked by November 2.
Print your ballot application here and mail it as soon as possible.

Ohio

Ballot must be postmarked by November 2 and received by November 13.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by October 31.

Oklahoma

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 27.

Oregon

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Oregon is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Pennsylvania

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 27.

Rhode Island

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by 4 p.m. on October 13.

South Carolina

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here, to be received by 5 p.m. on October 30. Voters currently need to meet certain criteria to qualify for an absentee ballot, but the state legislature is working on a bill to expand access to everyone.

South Dakota

Ballot must be received by November 3 “in enough time to deliver your ballot to your voting precinct before the polls close.”
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by 5 p.m. on November 2.

Tennessee

Ballot must be received by November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 27. Voters currently need to meet certain criteria to qualify for an absentee ballot, one of which is having “underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it.”

Texas

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by 5 p.m. on November 4.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received by October 23. Voters currently need to meet certain criteria to qualify for an absentee ballot.

Utah

Ballot must be postmarked by November 2.
Utah is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Vermont

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Vermont is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Virginia

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 23 [PDF].

Washington

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Washington is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

Washington, D.C.

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 10.
Washington, D.C. is mailing a ballot to each registered voter. Check to make sure you're registered to vote here.

West Virginia

Ballot must be postmarked by November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by October 28.

Wisconsin

Ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3.
Submit your ballot application online here by 5 p.m. on October 29.

Wyoming

Ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3.
Print your ballot application here [PDF], to be received “within the calendar year in which the election is held but not on the day of the election.”

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

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Apple

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

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Absentee Ballot vs. Mail-In Ballot: What’s the Difference?

Liliboas/iStock via Getty Images
Liliboas/iStock via Getty Images

Since you mail in an absentee ballot, it seems like mail-in ballot is just a convenient alternative for people who always forget the word absentee. And though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is technically a difference.

Up until the Civil War, American voters were generally required to vote at their local polling stations in person. But when states realized this would prevent hundreds of thousands of soldiers from voting in the 1864 presidential election, they started passing laws to let them send in their ballots instead. As The Washington Post explains, state legislatures have since broadened these laws to include other citizens who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day: people who are traveling, people who have disabilities, people attending college away from home, etc. Because these voters are all physically absent from the polls for one reason or another, their ballots are known as absentee ballots.

Some states require you to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for an absentee ballot, while others don’t ask you to give a reason at all (which is known as “no-excuse absentee voting”). Since this year’s general election is happening during a pandemic, many states have temporarily adopted a no-excuse policy to encourage everyone to vote from home. But even if you don’t need to provide an excuse, you do usually need to request an absentee ballot.

According to Dictionary.com, mail-in ballot is a more general term that can refer to any ballot you send in. It’s often used when talking about all-mail voting, when states send a ballot to every registered voter—no request necessary. Oregon and a few other states actually conduct all elections like this, and several other states have decided to do it for the upcoming presidential election. But even though you don’t have to send in an application requesting a mail-in ballot in these situations, you do still have to be registered to vote.

Because voting processes are mostly left up to the states, there’s quite a bit of variation when it comes to what officials call ballots that you don’t cast in person. You could see the term mail-in ballot—or vote-by-mail ballot, or advanced ballot, or something similar—on an application for an absentee ballot, and you could hear absentee ballot used in a conversation about all-mail voting.

No matter what you call it, you should definitely mail one in for this election—here’s how to do that in your state.