Posted by: jamesvw | November 15, 2009

Absentee Voting: A Primer

There are a lot of questions about absentee voting. Some states allow everyone to vote by mail, some states have very strict regulations on how to vote absentee.

This post will answer common questions about absentee voting.

Question: Who can vote absentee?

In some states, such as Florida, Texas and Washington, anyone can request an absentee ballot. In some states, only people who are away from their polling station for a “legitimate reason” such as college, illness, disability or military service can vote absentee. To find out the specifics for your state, click here.


Question: How do I request an absentee ballot?

You must fill out an absentee ballot request form and mail it to your local election office, which is, more often than not, your town or city clerk. Click here and find your state on the list in order to find your state-specific form.

Question: How do I show identification when I vote absentee?

Most states require you to show identification the first time you are voting in that state. This applies mostly to college-age voters who have recently turned 18, but also to residents who have recently moved to the state and re-registered there. You can make a photocopy of your driver’s license, as long as it has your current address on it. Often, you may also mail in an old utility bill, bank statement or paycheck that has your address on it as well – send this identification in with your absentee application.

Question: Do absentee ballots actually get counted?

Answer: There is a common myth that absentee ballots do not get counted or that they only get counted in close elections. This is false. All ballots get counted. Some states allow an absentee voter to send it in postmarked on the day of the election and so these votes will arrive late and may not be included in the election night total, but they will always be counted.

Absentee voting is an important tool that allows people to vote even though they work full-time or have other obligations that keep them away from the polling station on Election Day. Any additional questions – including state specific ones – should be left in the comments.


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