Voting by Mail: A State-by-State Guide for the 2020 Election

Wondering how you can vote by mail? Presenting: A state-by-state guide to whether your state allows mail-in or absentee voting, and how to request a mail-in ballot.

vote by mail
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By now, you're probably familiar with mail-in voting (opens in new tab), which has become a safer alternative to voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, President Trump continuously attempts to delegitimize the practice by stating (opens in new tab) that mail-in voting is synonymous with voter fraud. (There is no evidence that confirms this (opens in new tab).) Additionally, the Trump administration is refusing to fund the U.S. Postal Service (opens in new tab)the government agency that's responsible for ensuring our ballots arrive safely and on time.

The president's rhetoric has caused confusion about absentee ballots and mail-in ballots (opens in new tab), which are essentially the same thing. (For the record, President Trump has utilized absentee voting (opens in new tab) this year.) In states like Georgia and Ohio, all voters can request to have an absentee ballot sent to them (some states, like Texas and Indiana, require an excuse and don't allow COVID-19 to be one of them). Other states, like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, automatically send mail-in ballots to all of their registered voters, which is classified as mail-in voting or universal mail-in voting. Each state has different rules, and some of the states have changed their rules temporarily amid the pandemic—allowing voters to cite fear of contracting COVID-19 as an excuse to request an absentee ballot.

That said, between the unpredictability of the pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 U.S. lives (opens in new tab) and the unknown future of the U.S. Postal Service, it's important to register to vote (opens in new tab) now and request your mail-in ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020, as soon as possible (the USPS is encouraging voters to submit their request for a ballot at least two weeks before their state's deadline to receive the completed ballot). If you're able to safely vote in person, great, but nobody should have to choose between their health and their vote. To learn more about your state's vote-by-mail rules and how to request a mail-in ballot for the 2020 election, click directly on your state, below. We'll continue to update this article as new information surfaces.

Tip: Make sure to double check whether or not you need to submit additional materials, like a copy of your ID, with your absentee or mail-in ballot request form. It's also advised to track your completed mail-in ballot once you send it in. (You'll need to check your state's rules about this.)

AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaMaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaOregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermontVirginiaWashingtonWashington, D.C.West VirginiaWisconsinWyoming.

Alabama

vote by mail

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Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Due to the State of Emergency issued by the Governor of Alabama on March 13, 2020, all eligible voters who don't feel comfortable voting in person can request an absentee ballot and check the "I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls." You can read more on that here (opens in new tab).

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Alaska

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Arizona

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Arkansas

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Due to COVID-19, "qualified electors who conclude their attendance at the poll raises concerns to their health or the health of others as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be therefore unavoidably absent from the polls, may request and submit an absentee ballot." You can learn more here (opens in new tab).

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

California

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-64-20 (opens in new tab), which orders that a vote-by-mail ballot be mailed to each voter prior to the November 3, 2020 election in addition to offering in person voting locations. If your address has recently changed, make sure to update your voter registration as soon as possible to make sure your election materials reach you.

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Colorado

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. The state has been conducting universal mail-in voting before the COVID-19 pandemic. If your address has recently changed, make sure to update your voter registration as soon as possible to make sure your election materials reach you.

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Connecticut

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill's website (opens in new tab), "All voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot in the general election held on November 3, 2020 due to the COVID-19, pursuant to Public Act 20-03 July Spec. Sess. Just check the COVID-19 box on the application."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Delaware

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Per the governor's order (opens in new tab), voters can check off "I am sick, or physically disabled" on the absentee ballot application if they don't feel comfortable going to the polls due to COVID-19.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Florida

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? The Florida Division of Elections (opens in new tab) does not give a clear answer on its website, nor is there a clear answer on Governor Ron DeSantis' website (his COVID-19 executive order (opens in new tab) does not have explicit directions about mail-in voting). What we do know is that Floridians can search for their county's website here (opens in new tab) to request their mail-in ballot and eventually track it. 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Georgia

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Hawaii

vote by mail


(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. According to Hawaii's Office of Elections (opens in new tab), "The State of Hawaii passed Act 136, SLH 2019, implementing elections by mail beginning with the 2020 Elections. All properly registered voters will automatically receive a mail ballot packet approximately 18 days prior to the election." If your address has recently changed, make sure to update your voter registration as soon as possible to make sure your election materials reach you.

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Idaho

vote by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Illinois

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Indiana

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. There are no COVID-19-related exceptions. You need to meet one of the following requirements to vote by mail:

  • You have a specific, reasonable expectation that you will be absent from the county on Election Day during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open (6 a.m. until 6 p.m.).
  • You have a disability.
  • You are at least 65 years of age.
  • You will have official election duties outside of your voting precinct.
  • You are scheduled to work at your regular place of employment during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
  • You will be confined due to illness or injury or you will be caring for an individual confined due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
  • You are prevented from voting because of a religious discipline or religious holiday during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
  • You are a participant in the state's address confidentiality program.
  • You are a member of the military or a public safety officer.
  • You are a "serious sex offender" as defined in Indiana Code 35-42-4-14(a).
  • You are prevented from voting due to the unavailability of transportation to the polls.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Iowa

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below. 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Kansas

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Kentucky

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes. You can read an official press release from Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams on mail-in voting here (opens in new tab) and find general rules here (opens in new tab).

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to the press release mentioned above, "Any voter of any age or health condition who believes he or she is at risk from COVID-19 may vote absentee ballot. Eligibility to vote absentee also extends to voters who are in contact with such vulnerable voters."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Louisiana

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. The state is reportedly (opens in new tab) not granting voters the same COVID-19 exceptions it did in the primary elections. You need to meet one of the requirements to vote by mail that can be found here (opens in new tab).

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Maine

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Maryland

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below. 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Massachusetts

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below. 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Michigan

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to the website (opens in new tab) of Michigan's Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, "Due to the passage of the statewide ballot proposal 18-3, all eligible and registered voters in Michigan may now request an absent voter ballot without providing a reason."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Minnesota

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Although Minnesota does not require its voters to be registered before requesting an absentee ballot, you should still make sure you're registered to vote so your ballot will be counted. 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Mississippi

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. The ACLU and the Mississippi Center for Justice recently sued (opens in new tab) the state of Mississippi over its mail-in voting laws, stating voters should be able to cite COVID-19 as an excuse to vote absentee in the 2020 election. 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Missouri

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Montana

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Nebraska

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No. However, three counties in Nebraska—Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster (opens in new tab)—are reportedly planning to automatically send their voters absentee ballot request forms. It's not yet clear whether or not the forms will be sent out statewide.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Nevada

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. The state will send mail-in ballots (opens in new tab) to all active voters. However, the Trump campaign is reportedly suing the state (opens in new tab) over its mail-in ballot plan. You may want to still request a mail-in ballot just in case, below. 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

New Hampshire

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to the state's website (opens in new tab), "Concern over COVID-19 has been deemed a disability for the 2020 elections to meet the requirements of our state constitution for absentee voting."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

New Jersey

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All registered voters are expected to receive a ballot beginning on October 5 along with a prepaid return envelope. However, the Trump campaign is reportedly suing the state (opens in new tab) over its mail-in ballot plan. You may want to still request a mail-in ballot just in case, below. 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

New Mexico

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

New York

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. On August 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (opens in new tab) guaranteeing that all voters can request an absentee ballot.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

North Carolina

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No. Beware of potential scams (opens in new tab) and make sure you're sending in the official absentee ballot request form found on the state's website, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

North Dakota

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Ohio

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Oklahoma

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Oregon

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All registered voters receive a ballot two to three weeks before every election. 

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Pennsylvania

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? It's complicated. Pennsylvania requires voters to make a distinction between requesting a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot. Per the state's guidelines, all registered voters can apply for a mail-in ballot without an excuse, but registered voters who fall into certain categories found here (opens in new tab) should request an absentee ballot.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Rhode Island

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A M (opens in new tab)South DakotaAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

South Carolina

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Legislation signed into law on September 16, 2020, allows all voters to vote absentee under the "State of Emergency" reason.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

South Dakota

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Tennessee

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. You must meet one of the certain requirements found here (opens in new tab) to vote by mail.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Texas

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. To be eligible to vote by mail in Texas, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Be 65 years or older
  • Be disabled
  • Be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance
  • Be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Utah

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. If you are an active registered voter you will automatically receive a ballot in the mail.

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Vermont

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. A recent bill (opens in new tab) passed by Vermont's legislature requires ballots to be sent to all registered voters.

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Virginia

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Washington

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All ballots are mailed to registered voters at least 18 days before each election.

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

Washington, D.C.

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All active registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot at their registered address beginning the first week in October. If you want your ballot sent to a different location, you'll need to fill out the absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab).

LEARN MORE (opens in new tab)

West Virginia

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. You can cite concerns about COVID-19 as an excuse. 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Wisconsin

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form (opens in new tab) to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below. 

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

Wyoming

voting by mail

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes 

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No 

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT (opens in new tab)

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Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.