States continue to make changes to absentee voting

COVID-19 concerns prompt state officials to take action.

October 2020

Keith Goble


Election officials around the country this year have been busy adjusting dates for primaries, special elections, and local elections. The trend continues for how absentee voting will be conducted this November.

Continuing concerns about COVID-19 has spurred state officials to take action to temporarily allow voters to cast ballots from home instead of having to travel to the voting booth to make their voices heard.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about two-thirds of all states offer no-excuse absentee voting. Nearly one-third of states offer absentee voting as long as voters provide an eligible excuse. Five states conduct voting exclusively by mail. They are: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

All-mail elections allow registered voters to choose to return a ballot by mail. However, voters can choose to instead access in-person voting on Election Day.

States take steps to rely on mail-in ballots for voting in the fall election

New laws in California, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico require local election officials to deliver mail-in ballot applications to all voters for the general election.

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive giving counties the option to hold all-mail elections this fall.

Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey and Ohio will send absentee ballot request forms to registered voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Voters will have the option of requesting a mail-in absentee ballot, early voting, or in-person voting.

Additionally, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to launch an absentee ballot portal for voters to submit a ballot request.

The Wisconsin Election Commission voted to send absentee/mail-in ballot applications to most registered voters for the fall election.

States expand eligible excuses

An eligible excuse to vote absentee is a requirement in states around the country. Many of the affected states, however, are expanding their list to accommodate concerns about COVID-19.

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and West Virginia will allow voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus as a valid excuse to vote absentee for the presidential election.

More changes

A new Missouri law allows any registered voter to cast a mail-in ballot for the fall election. A notarization requirement is included. An exception to the notarization requirement is available for certain at-risk individuals.

Similarly in Rhode Island, a requirement has been waived to obtain the signatures of two witnesses or a notary for an absentee ballot to be valid.

In Minnesota, a consent decree approved by a district court will result in state election officials waiving the witness requirement for mail-in ballots for the fall election. LL

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.