A comprehensive guide to voting in all 50 states in the 2020 election

A comprehensive guide to voting in all 50 states in the 2020 election

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This election is going to be unlike any we’ve ever seen before. That’s a given—and it’s also just about all that we can be certain of. 

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic: Over 154,000 Americans have been killed by COVID-19, and the virus shows no signs of slowing its roll. The U.S. just experienced the largest drop in gross domestic product since the economic measure started being recorded, and the unemployment crisis is hitting both cities and rural America hard. People are devastated, hungry, broke, confused, ill, and unsure of what’s next. And in about 90 days they’re going to vote in a federal election, likely the most important election of our lifetimes. 

But how do you hold an election in the age of COVID-19, when Americans are being asked to shelter in place or at least not gather in large groups? That’s what states are struggling to figure out, and they’re trying to do it without monetary support or guidance from Congress, in conjunction with a Postal Service that is also running out of money and intentionally being slowed down and asked to leave mail behind. State secretaries and election officials, meanwhile, are trying to make this election work in spite of a President who has diminished faith in the electoral system by making repeated false claims of voter fraud and who has threatened to change the date of the election altogether, something he doesn’t have the authority to do. This is on top of an election system that was already unsafe, strapped for cash, and falling apart (quite literally; remember the Iowa Caucus?). 

It’s not going to be easy. And something that voters should keep in mind is that this election isn’t going to be centered around the first Tuesday in November as others have been in the past. It will extend months ahead of November 3 and perhaps even into the months following. Vote-by-mail initiatives and early voting begin as soon as September, and some states will probably be counting those mailed-in ballots well into the colder months—New York is still figuring out results from its primary on June 23. 

There’s a lot of new information out there with many new dates to keep in mind. In an attempt to make things a little easier, Fortune has gathered voter registration deadlines, early voting dates, and vote by mail/absentee ballot dates for each state below. 

At least 78% of Americans will be able to cast ballots by mail come this fall. Before COVID-19, 34 states and Washington, D.C., allowed anyone to vote absentee. Now, there are only seven states where in-person voting is the only option unless voters qualify for approved reasons not related to fear of COVID-19.

Each state’s rules regarding voting are different, but most offer some form of early voting that allows registered voters to head to polling places in the days ahead of Election Day without an excuse for voting early. Other states allow early “absentee voting” for people who know they’ll be out of the county or otherwise inconvenienced on Election Day. Voters can come in early to vote, but they need a valid excuse. In many cases, fears around COVID-19 are now considered a valid excuse.

Mail-in voting allows voters to request ballots to be sent directly to their homes. Americans can then send their votes in via the Postal Service or drop their ballots at a number of secure boxes and election offices in their district.

These dates are subject to change as states argue about best practices in real time, so please be sure to double-check any info with your local election office. 

Some notes: 

  • All times listed are in the state’s time zone, and if a state has multiple time zones, it is noted which one applies. Daylight savings time will end on November 1, so deadlines for requesting ballots and early voting are in daylight time whereas Election Day is in standard time. 
  • Information was compiled through the U.S. Vote Foundation, State Secretary, and other government websites, as well as local news sources. 
  • The phrases “absentee voting” and “vote-by-mail” are interchangeably used, though it’s noted when rules and dates around them are different. 
  • In some states, like Texas, there are local elections on November 3 that are treated separately from the general election, and they have different deadlines.

Alabama

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: Applications must be received by October 19

Absentee voting: Voting by mail will be available to anyone concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19 at the polls. Ballots must be requested by October 29, and voters must return absentee ballots by November 2 at 5 p.m. 

Alaska

Early voting: Available in Juneau, Soldotna, Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Nome from October 19 to November 1 at 4 p.m. AKDT.

Voter registration deadline: October 4 

Absentee voting: The deadline to apply for a ballot via mail is October 26, but online requests can be made up until November 2. Ballots must be postmarked, emailed, or faxed by November 3 and received in the mail by November 13. The state will send ballot applications to every voter over the age of 65; others can apply for their ballot online or via mail. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason.  

Arizona

Early voting: October 7–30

Voter registration deadline: October 5

Absentee voting: The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is October 30, and all ballots must be received by November 3 at 7 p.m. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Arkansas

Early voting: October 19–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: October 5 

Absentee voting: Applications for ballots must be received by October 27. Completed ballots must be received by 7:30 p.m on November 3. Voting by mail will be available to anyone concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19 at the polls.

California

Early voting: Varies by county 

Voter registration deadline: Residents who wish to vote by mail should register no later than October 20. Same-day registration is available on Election Day for in-person voting.

Absentee voting: The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is October 27, and completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 20. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Colorado

Early voting: Not available

Voter registration deadline: Residents who wish to vote by mail should register no later than October 26. Same-day registration is available on Election Day for in-person voting.

Absentee voting: Counties will automatically mail all eligible voters ballots beginning on October 9. Completed ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3. No excuse is needed to vote by mail.

Connecticut

Early voting: Not available

Voter registration deadline: Residents who wish to vote by mail should register no later than October 29. The deadline for registering to vote in person is November 2.

Absentee voting: The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is November 2, and completed ballots must be received by November 3. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Delaware

Early voting: Not available

Voter registration deadline: October 10 

Absentee voting: Voters can apply for an absentee ballot via mail until October 30 and in person until November 2. Completed ballots must be received by November 3. Any voter who is at risk of contracting COVID-19, has contracted COVID-19, or fears heading to the polls because of the pandemic will be permitted to vote absentee.

District of Columbia

Early voting: October 27–November 2

Voter registration deadline: October 13 

Absentee voting: D.C. will send each of its 500,000 registered voters a ballot ahead of the presidential election. Completed ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on November 3. The district is still finalizing protocol, so return dates are subject to change.

Florida

Early voting: October 24–31

Voter registration deadline: October 5

Absentee voting: Requests for mail-in ballots must be received by October 24, and completed ballots must be returned by November 3. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Georgia

Early voting: October 12–30

Voter registration deadline: October 5

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by October 30, and completed ballots must be returned by November 2. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Hawaii

Early voting: Some local voting service centers will open October 20 to November 3 where voters are able to cast ballots in person, ask questions, and register to vote.

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote via mail or online until October 5. In-person registration is available October 20 to November 3 at local voting service centers.

Absentee voting: All registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot about 18 days before the election. Completed ballots must be returned by November 3.

Idaho

Early voting: October 17–31, though not all counties participate

Voter registration deadline: Mail-in registration must be postmarked by October 7 and received by October 21. Same-day registration is available for voting in person. 

Absentee voting: Ballots must be requested by October 20, and completed ballots must be received by November 3. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Illinois

Early voting: October 19–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: Voters can register by mail until October 6 and online until October 18. There is a grace period that allows for in-person registration up until November 3, but you cannot register at polling places, only at election offices. 

Absentee voting: Absentee ballots may be requested via mail until October 29 or in person until November 2. Voters who voted in either the March 2020 primary, April 2019 consolidated election, or November 2018 general election, along with anyone who registered to vote or updated their registration between March 18 and July 31 will automatically receive an application for a vote-by-mail ballot. Completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 17 to be counted. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Indiana

Early voting: October 6–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: October 5

Absentee voting: Applications for ballots must be received by October 22, and completed ballots must be received by November 3. Voters are permitted to vote by absentee if they are impacted by COVID-19.

Iowa

Early voting: October 5–November 2

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote online or by mail until October 24. Same-day registration is also available in person on November 3.

Absentee voting: Requests for absentee ballots must be received by October 30, and completed ballots must be received by November 3. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Kansas

Early voting: October 14–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: Postmarked or submitted online by October 13 

Absentee voting: Ballots must be requested by October 30, and completed ballots must be received by November 2. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. 

Kentucky

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: October 5

Absentee voting: Ballots must be requested by October 27, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 6 p.m. Voters were allowed to vote by mail in primary elections for any reason, but the rules for the general election have yet to be determined. 

Louisiana

Early voting: October 20–27

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote via mail or in person until October 5 and online until October 14.

Absentee voting: The ballot request deadline is October 30, and completed ballots must be returned by November 2 at 4:30 p.m. You must have a specific reason to vote by mail (elderly, clergy member, living temporarily out of state), and COVID-19 is not one of them. 

Maine

Early voting: October 12–29

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote online or by mail until October 19. Same-day registration is also available in person on November 3.

Absentee voting: Ballots must be requested by October 31, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 8 p.m. Voters can cast absentee ballots for any reason. Currently, requests for mail-in ballots must be made by phone or mail, but an online application is expected to go live soon. 

Maryland

Early voting: October 22–29

Voter registration deadline: October 13 

Absentee voting: Voters can request an absentee ballot via mail until October 27 or online until October 30. Completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 13 at 10 a.m. Voters may vote by mail for any reason. 

Massachusetts

Early voting: October 17–30

Voter registration deadline: October 24 at 8 p.m. 

Absentee voting: Absentee ballots must be requested by October 28 at 12 p.m., and completed ballots must be returned by November 3 at 8 p.m. All registered voters in Massachusetts can vote by mail in any 2020 election, with no excuse needed. A vote-by-mail application will be sent to every person who was registered to vote as of July 1. 

Michigan

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote by mail until October 20 or in-person at election offices until November 2. Same-day registration is also available in person on November 3.

Absentee voting: Voters can request a mail-in ballot via mail or online until October 30 at 5 p.m. EDT. Completed ballots must received by November 3 at 8 p.m. EST. During primary elections, all registered voters were automatically mailed applications for ballots, but it’s unclear if the same protocol will occur in the general election. Any registered voter may vote by mail without excuse. 

Minnesota

Early voting: September 18–November 2, but days and times vary by county

Voter registration deadline: Voters can register online until October 13, and same day registration will be available on November 3. 

Absentee voting: Ballots can be requested up until Election Day on November 3, and completed ballots must also be received by November 3. All Minnesota voters are eligible to vote by mail and don’t need an excuse to do so. 

Mississippi

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: October 5

Absentee voting: There is no deadline to request a ballot. Ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on November 2 if submitting by mail or by October 29 if dropped off in person. Residents can vote by mail if elderly, out-of-state, or have other extenuating circumstances, but COVID-19 is not one of them. 

Missouri

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: October 7

Absentee voting: Voters can request absentee ballots until October 21, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 7 p.m. Mail-in ballots are typically available for those out of state or who are unable to go to polling places due to physical illness. In November, this will also extend to those who have contracted or are “in an at-risk category for contracting or transmitting severe” COVID-19. That means people who are immunocompromised, live with particular chronic illnesses, are over the age of 65, or who live in long-term care facilities. 

Montana

Early voting: October 12–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: Registration applications must be postmarked by October 5 and received by October 8. Same-day registration is also available on Election Day.

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by November 2 at 12 p.m., and completed ballots must returned by November 3 at 8 p.m. All voters are eligible to vote by mail and don’t need an excuse to do so. 

Nebraska

Early voting: October 4–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: Residents may register to vote until October 16 via mail, online, or in-person at state agencies and until October 23 at election offices.

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by October 23, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 8 p.m. CST. Nebraska is a no-excuse state, meaning any registered voter may request an absentee ballot.

Nevada

Early voting: October 17-30

Voter registration deadline: Residents may register to vote via mail and in-person until October 6 and online until October 29. In-person registration will also be available on Election Day.

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by October 20, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 7 p.m. Anyone in the state can vote by mail, and Nevada will mail ballots directly to all active voters (though President Donald Trump has threatened to sue over the decision). 

New Hampshire

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: Typically New Hampshire requires potential voters to show up in person to register, but those who fear exposure to COVID-19 can now request applications by mail until October 29. 

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by November 2, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 5 p.m. if mailed and by November 2 at 5 p.m. if returned in person. Exposure to COVID-19 or fear of exposure will be acceptable excuses to vote by mail this election.  

New Jersey

Early voting: Not available

Voter registration deadline: October 13

Absentee voting: Applications for mail-in ballots must be received by October 27, and completed ballots must be received in-person by November 2 at 3 p.m. or via mail by November 3. In New Jersey, any voter can vote by mail for any reason. In the primary elections, ballots were automatically sent to eligible voters, but no decision has been made about the general elections yet. 

New Mexico

Early voting: October 17–31

Voter registration deadline: October 6

Absentee voting: Voters can request absentee ballots via mail until October 20 at 5 p.m. and online until October 29. Completed ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on November 3. Any registered voter can vote by mail with no excuse required. 

New York

Early voting: October 24–November 1 

Voter registration deadline: Postmarked by October 9 and received by October 14 

Absentee voting: Applications for mail-in ballots must be postmarked by October 27, and the deadline for in-person requests is November 2. Completed ballots must be postmarked by November 2 and received by November 10. Absentee ballots that are delivered in-person must be received by November 3. New York accepted COVID-19 related illness, including fear of catching the virus, as a valid excuse to vote by mail in the primary election. The state legislature is still struggling to account for the primary’s postmark problems and has not yet decided if it will extend the rule changes into the general election.  

North Carolina

Early voting: October 15–31

Voter registration deadline: October 9

Absentee voting: Ballot requests must be received by October 27, and completed ballots must be received by November 3. Any registered voter can vote by mail without an excuse. 

North Dakota

Early voting: Dates vary locally

Voter registration deadline: North Dakota doesn’t require registration. Any eligible voter can show up and vote so long as they are a U.S. citizen over the age of 18 who lives in the precinct. Identification must be shown. 

Absentee voting: The deadline for both ballot applications and completed ballots is November 2. Any eligible voter can vote by mail without an excuse. 

Ohio

Early voting: October 3–November 2

Voter registration deadline: October 5 

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by October 31. Completed ballots must be postmarked by November 2 and received by November 13 if returning via mail. If returning in person, ballots must be received by November 3 at 7:30 p.m. Any eligible voter can vote by mail without an excuse. 

Oklahoma

Early voting: October 29–31 

Voter registration deadline: October 9 

Absentee voting: Requests for ballots must be received by October 28 at 5 p.m., and completed ballots must be received by November 3. Any eligible voter can vote by mail without an excuse.

Oregon

Early voting: Not available

Voter registration deadline: October 13

Absentee voting: Completed ballots must be received, either by mail or at drop-off locations, by November 3. Every eligible voter will automatically be sent a ballot with postage included.

Pennsylvania

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: October 19 

Absentee voting: The state offers both absentee ballots for those who plan to be out of the state or are ill and mail-in ballots for voters who want to send in their application for any reason. Requests for both ballots must be made by October 27, and completed ballots must be received by November 3. 

Rhode Island

Early voting: October 14–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: October 4

Absentee voting: Ballot requests are due October 16 at 4 p.m., and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 8 p.m. Any eligible voter can vote by mail without an excuse. State officials are considering sending all voters ballot applications automatically, but the decision has not yet been finalized.  

South Carolina

Early voting: Early voting is available only to those with a valid absentee excuse and will take place October 5–November 2.

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote in person until October 2 at 5 p.m. or via email or fax until October 4 at 11:59 p.m. Mailed applications must be postmarked by October 5. 

Absentee voting: Applications for ballots must be requested by October 30 at 5 p.m., and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 7 p.m. Absentee ballots are for those who are incapacitated, unable to vote because of work obligations, the elderly, and those who are out of their county. COVID-19 concerns are not a valid excuse for the general election. 

South Dakota

Early voting: September 18–November 2.

Voter registration deadline: October 19 

Absentee voting: Ballot requests must be submitted by November 2 at 5 p.m., and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 7 p.m. Any eligible voter can vote by mail without an excuse.

Tennessee

Early voting: October 14–29 

Voter registration deadline: October 5 

Absentee voting: Ballot requests must be received by October 27, and completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 8 p.m. The Tennessee Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that will decide if vote-by-mail privileges will be extended to all voters because of risks associated with COVID-19, but if the lower court ruling remains law, concern over the spread of the virus will be a valid excuse to vote absentee. 

Texas

Early voting: October 20–31 

Voter registration deadline: October 5 

Absentee voting: Ballot requests must be received by October 23, and completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 4 at 5 p.m. CST. If submitting in person, the deadline is November 3 at 7 p.m. CST. Only those who are out of the county, over the age of 65, imprisoned, or disabled are allowed to vote by mail. In July, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that “lack of immunity” to COVID-19 did not count as a disability and did not qualify for a mail-in ballot. The court also said that county election clerks weren’t required to investigate or question any voters who claim that they do have a disability and need to vote by mail, so make of that what you will. 

Utah

Early voting: October 20–30 

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote online or via mail until October 23. Same-day registration will also be available in person on Election Day.

Absentee voting: Completed ballots must be received by November 3. All registered voters will automatically be sent ballots and prepaid return envelopes about three weeks before the election. If voters would prefer to vote in person, they must take their blank ballot and return envelope with them to an early voting location or Election Day location and give their un-voted, unsigned ballot and envelope to staff.

Vermont

Early voting: September 20–November 2 

Voter registration deadline: No deadline

Absentee voting: Completed ballots must be returned by November 3. Vermont will send ballots directly to all registered voters. 

Virginia

Early voting: Voters with an absentee excuse can vote from September 18–October 31, and voters without an excuse can vote from October 24–31.

Voter registration deadline: October 12 

Absentee voting: Ballot requests by mail must be received by October 27 at 5 p.m., and in-person requests must be made by October 31 at 5 p.m. Completed ballots must be received by November 3 at 7 p.m. There are some restrictions to who can vote by mail, but concerns over COVID-19 count as a valid excuse. 

Washington

Early voting: Not available 

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote via mail or online until October 26. Same-day registration will also be allowed on Election Day. 

Absentee voting: Ballots will be mailed to all registered voters with prepaid postage at least 18 days ahead of the election. They are due on November 3, either via mail or drop-off at a number of secure ballot-box locations. 

West Virginia

Early voting: October 21–31

Voter registration deadline: Must be postmarked by October 13 and received by October 16 

Absentee voting: Ballots requests must be received by October 28. Completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 4. All voters will be able to request absentee ballots, and COVID-19 will be a valid excuse. An online portal to easily request ballots will be available on August 11. 

Wisconsin

Early voting: Dates vary locally

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote online and by mail until October 14, at an election office until October 30, and in-person on Election Day on November 3.

Absentee voting: Voters can request a ballot via mail until October 29 and in person until October 30. Completed ballots must be received by November 3. All registered voters may request an absentee ballot. Wisconsin will automatically send many voters ballot requests, but not all. 

Wyoming

Early voting: Dates vary by county

Voter registration deadline: Residents can register to vote online and by mail until October 19. Same-day registration is available in-person on Election Day on November 3.

Absentee voting: Ballots must be requested by November 2, and completed ballots are due on November 3. Any registered voter can request an absentee ballot for any reason.

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