At least 20 states revise absentee voting rules

April 30, 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, such as online or absentee voting.

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 choose to instead access in-person voting on Election Day.

In addition to election date changes, states are announcing changes 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 in the past week by the governor will drop the requirement for the June 23 state and presidential primary.

“(The executive order) … will allow all Kentuckians who are registered to vote for the upcoming primary to vote by mail through an absentee ballot,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in prepared remarks.

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

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

“It makes no sense to me to tell people you have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote,” Cuomo stated.

The governor also canceled the presidential primary scheduled for the same day.

Delaware also offers absentee voting with a valid excuse. Action taken this spring at the statehouse expanded the list of excuses to apply to voters concerned about COVID-19. The change will apply for the June 2 presidential primary.

In nearby Massachusetts, 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 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 presidential and state primaries.

The same absentee voting setup will be in place for Rhode Island’s presidential primary on June 2.

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

No-excuse absentee voting states make changes

In the lead-up to Nebraska’s state and presidential primary next month, the state is sending absentee ballot applications to all voters. Election Day is May 12.

Across the state line in Iowa, voters will 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.

Idaho’s state primary is set to be conducted entirely by mail. Voters can request an absentee ballot or wait until a ballot is mailed to them ahead of the May 19 primary.

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

Nevada also will offer all-mail voting for the June 9 state primary.

The state of Michigan will hold local elections on Tuesday, May 5. Election officials are in the process of mailing absentee voting ballots to all registered voters.

Additionally, counties in Montana and North Dakota have been given permission to conduct all voting for June elections by mail.

The same setup will be used for New Jersey’s municipal and local elections on May 12.

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.

Pilot Flying J
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.