At least 20 states revise absentee voting rules

May 22, 2020

Keith Goble

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Election officials around the country are not only adjusting 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 the coronavirus have spurred state officials to take action to temporarily permit 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.

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

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

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

States easing 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 is one state to offer absentee voting, but an excuse is required. Action taken by the governor dropped the requirement for the June 23 state and presidential primary.

Voters will be able to request an absentee ballot via an online portal.

In South Carolina, a bill signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster allows 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 has taken executive action to send absentee ballot applications to voters for the June 23 state primary. The governor, however, canceled the presidential primary scheduled for the same day.

On Tuesday, May 19, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to reinstate the Empire State’s presidential primary.

Delaware also offers absentee voting with a valid excuse. Gov. John Carney announced the state will mail absentee ballot applications to all eligible voters ahead of the June 2 presidential primary.

In nearby Massachusetts and New Hampshire, absentee voting eligibility will temporarily be extended to voters based on concerns related to COVID-19.

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

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

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

West Virginia is also allowing all voters to cast absentee ballots for the June 9 state and presidential primary.

No-excuse absentee voting states make changes

Voters in Iowa will soon receive absentee ballot request forms for the June 2 state primary.

Likewise, absentee ballot request forms are being sent to all Georgia voters for the June 9 presidential and state primary elections.

South Dakota voters also will receive absentee ballot request forms in the mail ahead of the June 2 state and presidential primary.

Maryland has gone a step further to implement voting largely by mail for the June 2 state and presidential primary. A limited number of in-person polling centers also will be 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 will be available.

Additionally, Nevada is offering all-mail voting for the June 9 state primary. Counties in Montana and North Dakota have been given permission to conduct all voting for June elections by mail.

Looking ahead

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

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order directing counties to send mail-in ballots ahead of the presidential 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 Web access – or those who have questions or need assistance – can call the OOIDA Membership Department at 800-444-5791, ext. 4906.

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.