Early voting for the US midterms: Where, when, and how

Where, and how.
Where, and how.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Drake
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Update: On Jan. 9, 2019, the state of New York passed legislation allowing early voting up to 10 days prior to the election. The chart below has been updated accordingly.

The US midterm elections are weeks away, but voting has already begun in some states. Thirty-seven states, plus the District of Columbia, allow early voting by mail or in-person.

Each state manages its own voting process and voter registration; policies vary greatly between states. While all states allow voting in person and via mail, each method comes with conditions. Some states allow early voting in person, while others require early votes to be sent in by mail. Some states require a justification to cast a ballot by mail (for instance, proof of living outside the state), while others don’t.

What is early voting?

Early voting exists in 37 states and the District of Columbia. It allows people to cast votes on their own schedule, within a certain window. Some early votes can be cast by mail. But in some states, it is also possible to vote early in person at designated locations (government offices, libraries, schools and malls can all be designated voting stations).

The timing of the early voting window varies from state to state, and even between counties within the same state. The earliest a state is allowed to vote is 45 days prior to election day (New Mexico, Wisconsin); the average early voting window opens 19 days before election day.

Absentee voting: How can I vote by mail?

You can apply to be an absentee voter, and receive a ballot by mail. Just fill it out and send it back in by the deadline. In 27 states, you can vote by mail without any justification required. In 20 states, you are required to have a reason for voting by mail (for example, you’re studying outside your state, or are physically unable to go to the polls.)

A few states have a permanent absentee registry for those who wish to always vote via mail. In the three states of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, you can only vote by mail.

Below is a breakdown of different states’ rules on early voting and absentee voting.  Early voting windows here reflect the most common dates for each state, but they could vary depending on specific county regulations—check your local government website to be sure!