Traditionally, absentee ballots are issued to voters who request them after providing a valid reason for not voting in-person. College students may vote absentee if they are living in another state at the time of the election or are unable to return to their registered precinct for election day.
However, due to the circumstances created by COVID-19, some states are allowing voters to request absentee ballots without providing a reason. Absentee ballot circumstances vary between states with some states either automatically sending absentee ballots or requests for absentee ballots to all eligible voters for the upcoming election (usa.gov). If you are unfamiliar with your state's rules regarding absentee ballots this election, please visit the NASS's Absentee and Early Voting page and select your state to see their protocols.
Once you have determined you are eligible to vote absentee, follow the steps below to learn how to request, fill out, mail-in, and check on your absentee ballot.
Step 1: Requesting an absentee ballot
*Important* You must be registered to vote in order to request an absentee ballot. Check your registration status here.
Some states are automatically mailing absentee ballot applications to all eligible voters while some other states are directly mailing absentee ballotswithout having voters fill out an application. If your state is not doing either of the aforementioned processes and you would like to vote absentee, you must fill out a request for an absentee ballot and submit it correctly in order to receive your absentee ballot.
Typically, you must request an absentee ballot again for each new election. For example, if you requested an absentee ballot for the primary election, you must request an absentee ballot again for the general election if you wish to vote absentee again. However, there are a few states that have an option to automatically receive absentee ballots for all eligible elections in a calendar year. Check your state's elections page to see if this applies to you.
Find your state
Visit the NASS's Absentee and Early Voting page and select your state from the drop-down menu. From there, you will be directed to your state's official absentee ballot page that will contain your state's application for an absentee ballot.
Some states may allow you to fill out and submit the application online while others may require you to print the application and mail it. Be sure to check your state's acceptable methods for submitting an absentee ballot application.
It is recommended that you request an absentee ballot at least 90 days before the election you wish to vote in (fvap.gov). However, please also note that some states set the earliest date allowed to request an absentee ballot later than 90 days before an election, so check with your local election office.
You submitted your application for an absentee ballot and now you have received your official absentee ballot in the mail. Great!
Be sure to follow all instructions enclosed with your absentee ballot. State's rules can vary, be sure to adhere to the directions provided with your absentee ballot to avoid the rejection of your ballot.
Check to make sure you are filling out the application with an acceptable writing utensil.
Double-check your ballot! Make sure you have marked a candidate for every position you wish to vote for.
My absentee ballot has not arrived...
You may be able to check the ballot issue date for your absentee ballot on your state's election page. If you live in Georgia, you can visit your My Voter Page to see the issue date of your absentee ballot.
Most states do not print and mail absentee ballots more than 30 days before the election, so if you applied early, you may have to wait. However, if you still have not received your absentee ballot and the election is less than two weeks away, call your local election official.
Now it's time to submit your absentee ballot and effectively cast your vote for the election.
State's rules on submitting absentee ballots vary. Most states allow you to mail back in your absentee ballot but some states offer local ballot drop-boxes, faxing, and online submissions of absentee ballots.
Check your state's official absentee ballot guidelines to see the acceptable methods for submitting your absentee ballot.
If you are registered to vote in the state of Georgia, you can check your absentee ballot status on your Georgia My Voter Page.
Enter your first initial, last name, county, and date of birth in the right-hand login section and click submit.
From there, you will see a box labeled "Absentee Ballot Request Information". In that box, click "Click here for Absentee Ballot status" and you will be provided with the date your ballot was sent to you, as well as the date it was received or if it was rejected.
Navigate to your state's official absentee voting page by selecting your state from the drop-down menu on the NASS's Absentee and Early Voting page. If your state offers a way of checking your absentee ballot status, it will be mentioned on their absentee voting page. Most states have a way for voters to check their absentee ballot status online, while there are some states or parts of states that have alternative methods of confirming your ballot was received, such as by calling your local elections office.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are absentee ballots the same as mail-in ballots?
A: Some states use the term "mail-in" ballot interchangeably with "absentee" ballot. However, there are several states that conduct mail-in only elections, and voters that are out of the state for Election Day might request an absentee ballot. In this case, absentee ballots are a form of mail-in ballots.
Q: How do I know if my vote has been counted?
A: Some states, such as Georgia, have a website you can visit to check if your absentee ballot was received and confirm that it was not rejected. If you have any concerns about the status of your ballot, contact your state's elections officials.
Q: What happens if I make a mistake while filling out my absentee ballot?
A: Your ballot will come enclosed with instructions that detail how to spoil your ballot if you made a mistake. In the event you have to start over, there will be instructions on how to request a new absentee ballot.
Q: When can I apply for an absentee ballot and when is the deadline?
Q: If I lose the absentee ballot that was sent to me, can I get another one?
A: You can, but you must first sign an affidavit affirming that you lost, destroyed, or did not receive the first absentee ballot. In this case, another ballot will be issued to you.
Q: If I requested an absentee ballot, can I change my mind and still vote at my polling place?
If the ballot has been completed and returned and received by your elections office, you cannot vote at your regular polling place.
If you still have the absentee ballot and give it to the poll manager at your polling place, you may receive a regular ballot.
If you have not received an absentee ballot and want to early vote in person or vote in person on election day, you can still vote in person. Tell a poll worker that you have not received your absentee ballot yet. You will have to sign an affidavit and then you can vote.
If you have returned the absentee ballot, you generally cannot vote in person. Please contact your county elections office for more information about your specific situation.
Q: Can I give my voted absentee ballot to someone else to return to the elections office?
A: Only physically disabled voters can do this. A physically disabled voter can designate a relative or an individual residing in the same household to return his or her voted ballot in person or by mail to the elections office.