President Barack Obama urged people to vote early in a video released this week by the Hillary Clinton campaign, saying that millions of Americans, including himself, will cast their votes ahead of Election Day.
Early voting is not new and has been a popular option for absentee voters for years. However it wasn’t until 1978 when California became the first state to allow “no excuse absentee voting” that it became a common way to cast a ballot.
Yet, while the majority of states allow some form of early voting today, it’s not quite as simple as Obama made it seem in his video. In fact, different states have different rules, and some don’t allow any type of early voting at all.
So before you run off to your local polling station right now, here’s what you need to know:
1) No-excuse early voting. There are 34 states that have no-excuse early voting. This means that voters who can’t, or don’t want to, go to the polls on Election Day can choose to vote in the days leading up to the election.
However, while all these states allow no-excuse early voting, the dates and times an individual can submit a ballot depend on the state or the county. Some states only allow early voting a couple days before the election, while others allow early voting around 40 days before the election.
2) In-person absentee voting. Another way to think of this is as “excused early voting.” This is an option for voters who have a valid excuse for being unable to make it to their polling location on November 8. Different states have different qualifications about what is concerned a valid excuse.
Individuals who qualify to vote early can vote at polling places in-person, rather than just filling out an absentee voting ballot.
The states that have in-person absentee voting are: Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia.
3) All-mail voting. It is also important to note that Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have all mail-in ballots, therefore eliminating the need for early voting options. In all those states the ballots must be received by a certain time on election day.
4) No early voting. For voters registered in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, early voting is not an option. Voters in those states can either vote by absentee ballot or go to the polls on November 8.