If you follow EVIC you already know that early and absentee voting laws and policies are complex and vary widely across the fifty states. That’s why EVIC publishes an early and absentee voting calendar and spreadsheet for every general election.
This year, we’ve updated our products and hope the additional information encourages further dialogue about how these rules affect voters. So, make sure to try out all the new bells and whistles. Below, we explain what our information means and provide some basic context. If you’re worried that we misrepresent any state’s election law or policy, do not hesitate to let us know and post below.
Finally, EVIC wants to thank Jonathan Harvey and Tony Moreno, from Reed College CIS, who helped program and design the new calendar. I also want to thank Alex Arpaia, who helped gather the early and absentee voting data.
Early In Person Voting: Does the state provide early in-person (EIP) voting? Thirty-five states and DC offer EIP voting. Many of the states that do not offer EIP are in the Atlantic Northeast, while EIP has been most popular in the South. In fact, data from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Elections Study shows that 36% of Southern voters cast their ballot in-person before Election Day. This number has been on the rise since at least 1996, when early voting data first became available. The Black early voting electorate has also seen a significant increase starting in 2008, though it began to grow earlier in some states such as North Carolina.
Voting by Mail: Does the state provide vote-by-mail? We only define a voting system as vote-by-mail if by-mail voting is the only voting method. The three VBM states are Oregon, Washington, and (for the first time) Colorado. In VBM states, voters are encouraged to return their ballots to drop boxes located around the state, and needn’t visit a polling station (I’ve always wanted to know whether they get “I voted” stickers at the drop boxes. Any insight would be appreciated).
No Excuse Absentee: Does the state provide no-excuse absentee voting (NXA)? All states must provide an absentee voting option for citizens with an excuse—for example, being too sick to visit a polling station. Twenty-eight states and DC allow for absentee voting without an excuse. NXA is most popular in the West, with more than 50% of Western respondents to the 2010 Current Population Survey reporting that they cast by-mail ballots. Though early in-person voting has received significantly more political attention (most attempts to change state election legislation focus on EIP, not absentee voting–check out these two links) there are reasons to believe that absentee voting is more prone to fraud or more likely (though still not very likely) to cause election turmoil (note immediately below).
Post Mark: When deciding whether to accept a by-mail ballot, does the state consider the postmark date, or only when the ballot arrives? Thirteen states and DC consider the postmark (PM) date when deciding whether to accept an absentee ballot. At least one regular contributor to EVIC believes that this policy is bad.
Date EIP Opens / Closes: On what day does early in-person voting begin and end? Nine states (Minnesota, South Dakota, Mississippi, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming) let voters turn in ballots in-person in as early as late September. A number of the proposed state legislative changes to election law affect the length of the early voting period (note the links above, especially Texas, North Carolina, and Indiana).
EIP Weekday Hours: If the state provides EIP, during what hours is EIP open on weekdays (Monday through Friday)? The number of hours available for voters to vote early, either per day or as a total across the early voting period, has been the subject of significant controversy across the country. Some states provide a minimum number of hours that an early voting office must stay open, but allows the office to stay open for longer.
EIP Weekend: Are early in-person voting locations open on the weekend? If so, on what days and at what times? Most states that offer EIP voting either require at least one day of weekend voting (usually the final Saturday before the election, but not always) or let the particular county decide whether to permit weekend EIP voting. Florida received significant attention during Election 2012 when Florida HB 1355 took away early voting on the last Sunday before the election—the same day that, in 2008, a large portion of the Black early voting electorate came out to vote.
Last day to request an absentee ballot: What is the last day that a voter can request an absentee ballot for the November general election? Though many states let voters request absentee ballots up until the Monday before the election, on multiple occasions state election officials told me that voters would do well to request an absentee ballot well before then. The state needs time, they noted, to send the voter the absentee ballot, and the voter needs time to then send the ballot back in. In other words, request your absentee ballot as early as possible!
Last day voters can return an absentee ballot: What is the last possible day that the state election office will accept a voter’s absentee ballot? This date is often November 4th (Election Day), but not always. For example, the state may have a different final date for returning an absentee ballot in-person than by-mail. Also, if the state considers the postmark date on absentee ballots, them the state may accept the absentee ballot after Election Day as long as the ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day.
Date VBM ballots mailed: This only refers to the three states that provide VBM. The three full VBM states (WA, OR, CO) send ballots out at around mid-October.
Date absentee ballots mailed: The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) requires states to send absentee ballots to such voters at least 45 days prior to the election—for this election, September 20th. Many states also send their domestic absentee ballots on or very near this September 20th date as well.
Phone numbers: Contact information for the election officials in the respective state.
Websites: Either the state’s Secretary of State webpage or a page specifically for elections.
My comments about my time spent as an election observer in Ukraine are featured in this week’d electionline.org newsletter:
‘Don’t go, just don’t go.’
‘You realize you just spent a week’s wages on that souvenir?’
By Paul Gronke
Those two quotations — the first from a concerned coworker before I left and the second from my translator at the end of the mission — reflect much of my experience as an election observer for the OSCE/ODHIR mission to Ukrainian presidential election on May 25, 2014.
The mission to Ukraine was my third time as an election observer for ODIHR. Previously, I’ve served as an observer for the Albanian parliamentary election in June 2013 and the Kyrgyz presidential election in October 2011.
While many of my friends and colleagues were intrigued by the trip to Kyrgyzstan, and a bit jealous of my mid summer trip to Albania, the Ukrainian mission — for obvious reasons — prompted the most interest and concern. ….
To read the rest, go to this week’s electionline.org newsletter.
It has been a peaceful morning of balloting in Kherson, Ukraine. I am here monitoring elections as part of an international mission. I’ve met hundreds of other observers from the United States, Canada, Germany, and many other countries. All are hard working and dedicated individuals who are interested in helping to cement democratic development in the country.
Because Kherson is located just west of Crimea and has more than 50% of the population who report Russian as their native language, you’d think that this region would be tense. We had to sit through extra security briefings before we were deployed to the area.
But the two words that would describe the election thus far are busy and calm. The election is busy because the lines are long and voter interest is high. These lines aren’t helped by the economic crisis in the country which has resulted in understaffed polling places and too few voting booths. Things aren’t so different in the United States!
Nonetheless, voters seem to be in good spirits, perhaps helped by the beautiful, warm, sunny summer Sunday, and generally calm–except when they’ve had to wait for an hour to vote!
I hope for a free and fair outcome, one that may help the country move forward. I’m sure everyone here hopes for the same.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, also known as the Bauer-Ginsberg Commission, has issued its final report. Rick Hasen, waking and working before all of us, has already provided a great summary of findings and recommendations. I’m particularly excited to see the Election Toolkit produced by the Voting Information Project.
Congratulations to Nate, Charles, Tammy, Ann, Chris, Ben, Bob, Trey, and all the commission members and staff!
I appeared along with a number of poll workers, local election officials, advocates, and academics at a full day post-election meeting organized by the Election Assistance Commission.
You can watch the full day webcast here. Each segment is 90 minutes long and it’s pretty easy to pick and choose according to your interest.
There are 720,694 early in-person ballots processed by the State Board of Elections in NC as of this morning. We finally have enough leverage–and enough days–to compare the turnout rates and trajectory to previous elections.
Signs of a rising Democratic tide, at least in this one state, appear to be accurate. The gap between the 2008 rate and the 2012 rate widened for the first three days of early in person voting and has held steady since then. The GOP, by comparison, is not doing much better in 2012 than they did (as a proportion of identifiers) in 2008.
We’ll be updating these graphics every few days as early voting continues.
Michael McDonald and I have agreed on a hashtag: #earlyvote.
Set your twitter filters accordingly. Back to your regularly scheduled blog.
It’s early, but the first ballot return rates are coming in from North Carolina and some patterns are emerging.
- Of the 41,245 absentee ballot requests, 83% were from civilians, 8.7%were from the military, and 8% were from overseas voters.
- Civilian ballots that have been returned thus far have the highest acceptance rate (90.5% of the 1089 returned), compared to 87.4% of overseas ballots and 82.4% of military ballots.
- The main reasons for rejected ballots were cancellations, 6% of civilian and 10% of UOCAVA (there is no difference by status).
- However, already 6% of the military ballots have been returned as undeliverable, compared to only 1% of civilian ballots. This is based on an extremely small sample size–that 6% is based on just 10 returned ballots out of 165 total returned. Nonetheless, undeliverable military ballots have been a point of concern in the past.
More updates as I process this file. I think this is a great assignment for my Statistics class!
Data definitely ARE beautiful, as is correct grammatical usage.
If officials are skeptical of the merit of the residual vote rate, one source that illustrates its merits is the “Residual Voting in Florida” report coauthored by me and Charles Stewart. Look in particular at pg. 55-56, which I humbly suggest is a perfect illustration of Doug’s point.
Using data from Florida, we identify the two highest residual vote rate precincts in the state–two precincts that are wholly contained within elder care facilities. We further show that the rate in the two precincts is completely driven by high error rates on absentee ballots.
We can’t diagnose the disease in full. It may be that elderly citizens are making more errors because they can’t ask for help from poll workers when completing the ballot. It may be that the text is printed too small, causing difficulties for citizens with vision impairment. Or perhaps the ballot itself is confusing in unexpected ways.
But at least now we know where to look.
The takeaway chart is here: