States continue to make changes to absentee voting

August-September 2020

Keith Goble

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Election officials around the country have not only adjusted to date changes for primaries, special elections and local elections, they also are preparing for changes to how voting will be conducted in the coming months.

Continuing concerns about COVID-19 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, two-thirds of all states offer no-excuse absentee voting. The remaining 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.

Eight states allow some elections to be conducted entirely by mail.

“All-mail elections” let registered voters choose to return a ballot by mail. However, it does not preclude from choosing in-person voting on Election Day.

In addition to election date changes, states are changing procedures for voting.

States ease absentee voting limitations

Absentee voting is available throughout the country. In about 20 states, voters must provide an eligible excuse to take advantage of the option.

Kentucky offers absentee voting, but an excuse is required. Action taken by the governor dropped that requirement for the June 23 state and presidential primary.

Voters were able to request an absentee ballot via an online portal.

A new Missouri law lets any registered voter cast absentee ballots for all 2020 elections. The ballot must be notarized.

Another new law in South Carolina allowed any eligible voter in the state to request an absentee ballot for the state’s June 9 primary.

Similarly, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took executive action to send absentee ballot applications to voters for the June 23 primary.

In nearby Massachusetts and New Hampshire, absentee voting eligibility will temporarily be extended to voters based on concerns related to COVID-19. The same exception was implemented for the state of Delaware’s presidential primary.

Alabama allowed anyone to vote absentee during the July 14 state primary under the physical illness excuse provision.

Similarly, in Indiana, the state suspended the requirement for an excuse to vote absentee. Instead, all voters were allowed to vote by mail for the June 2 presidential and state primaries.

The same setup was in place for Rhode Island’s presidential primary on June 2.

No-excuse absentee voting changes

Already this year voters in Georgia, Iowa and South Dakota received absentee ballot request forms for June primaries.

In Maryland, the state went a step further to implement voting largely by mail for the June state and presidential primary. A limited number of in-person polling centers also were available.

Ahead of the July 7 primaries in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order for all registered voters to receive mail-in ballots. A limited number of in-person polling places and ballot drop boxes also were available.

A new Virginia law allows voters to cast absentee ballots without needing an excuse for voting before Election Day. Previously, the state required an “acceptable excuse” to vote absentee.

Additionally, the states of Montana, Nevada and North Dakota permitted action to be taken to conduct all-mail voting for primaries.

Looking ahead

Multiple states have taken steps to rely on mail-in ballots for voting in the fall election.

West Virginia allowed all voters to cast absentee ballots for the June 9 state and presidential primary. Additionally, the state implemented the same rule for the fall election.

Secretaries of state in Connecticut and Michigan have announced plans for their state primaries and the Nov. 3 presidential election to be done by mail-in ballot.

Michigan’s state primary is set for Aug. 4. Connecticut’s state primary is scheduled for Aug. 11.

A new law in Illinois requires local election officials to deliver mail-in ballot applications to all voters for the general election.

Ohio will send an absentee ballot request form to registered voters ahead of the general election. Voters will have the option of requesting a mail-in absentee ballot, early voting, or in-person voting.

In Tennessee, a court ruling ordered the state to make absentee voting available to all voters for the Aug. 6 state primary and Nov. 3 election. First-time voters who register by mail, however, will be required to cast ballots in person.

The Wisconsin Election Commission voted to send absentee/mail-in ballot applications to most registered voters for the fall election. Similarly, in New Mexico, a new law authorizes county clerks to mail absentee ballot applications to voters ahead of the presidential election.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill requiring counties to send absentee/mail-in ballots to all registered voters for the presidential election. The governor previously signed an executive order directing counties to send mail-in ballots ahead of the election.

Registering to vote

Truckers who are registered to vote should make the effort to cast their ballots. Although primary elections typically don’t receive the same attention as the fall election, they can be just as important, if not more.

Primary ballots can include a variety of issues, and many that are of significance to the trucking industry.

Visit FightingForTruckers.com for information on steps to register to vote. A link is available at the bottom of the page.

Truckers who do not have online access – or those who have questions or need assistance – can call the OOIDA Membership Department at 816-229-5791, ext. 4906. LL

TA Firestone
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.