By Karen Shanton and Wendy Underhill
The elections team at NCSL is continuing to think about the questions the Presidential Commission on Election Administration is likely to address and lining up resources that can provide answers.
Today's topic: pre-Election Day voting. Allowing voters to cast ballots early is one way to help reduce lines at the polls on Election Day. (Of course, wait times at early voting sites are a different matter.)
There are three main categories of pre-Election Day, sometimes called "convenience," voting:
- Early in-person voting: Voters cast ballots at a county office or other officially designated site before Election Day.
- Absentee voting: Voters request ballots, which they submit by mail or at a designated drop-off point. Some states allow any registered voter to request an absentee ballot (no-excuse absentee voting) while others only permit absentee voting in certain circumstances.
- All-mail elections: Voters are automatically sent ballots, which they submit by mail or at a designated drop-off point.
All of these are alternatives to traditional voting at a neighborhood polling place on Election Day.
NCSL has a range of resources on pre-Election Day voting, including:
- Absentee and Early Voting webpage: An overview of states' current pre-Election Day voting practices.
- Pre-Election Day Voting: Just the FAQ's, Ma'am: An accessible introduction to the basic facts, pros and cons of pre-Election Day voting.
- 2011-2013 Elections Legislation Database: A searchable database of past and pending legislation on a range of elections-related topics, including forms of pre-Election Day voting.
- State-Based Election Reports, 2011-2013: A compilation of best practices, after-action reports and process reviews of election procedures, including forms of pre-Election Day voting.
Outside NCSL, here are a couple of resources worth looking into:
The Early Voting Information Center (EVIC) at Reed College: Directed by elections expert Paul Gronke, the EVIC explores the political and administrative ramifications of increasing early voting options.
Voting: What Has Changed, What Hasn't and What Needs Improvement: This report, from the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project, includes a detailed discussion of early and absentee voting.
As with all elections issues, feel free to call us at 303-364-7700 or send us an email if you have questions about pre-Election Day voting.