How to Get an Absentee Ballot

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 18, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The election is right around the corner, and with all the excitement, you don't want to be left out. But what if you have to work a double on Election Day, or you're away at college, or are going to be on a cruise ship? The good news is that you don't have to miss out as you can vote with an absentee ballot. The rules for obtaining an absentee ballot are simple, and once you have your ballot, you can vote from the comfort of your own couch.

In a majority of states, getting an absentee ballot is as simple as requesting one, and some states even allow online requests. However, in some states, you may be required to provide a reason, such as illness, travel, or work. You should register as soon as possible since some states have strict deadlines. The rules for casting your absentee ballot vary from state to state, but generally it is as simple as following the instructions in the ballot that gets mailed to you.

Requirements in Many States

While most states do not have any requirements for registering to vote by mail, twenty-one states do require a reason be provided. Some of the qualified reasons include:

  • You will be absent from the county, state or country on election day (and some states require that you are absent during the early voting period as well).
  • You have an illness or physical disability that will prevent you from making to the polling place.
  • You are a member of, or dependent spouse of, a military branch, deployed or employed outside the US or state, or county.
  • You are a student, or dependent spouse of a student, outside your state, county or the US.
  • You are scheduled to work that day (some states require that you be scheduled during the entire 12 hours the polls are open).

Even in the states that do not have requirements to qualify for an absentee ballot, it may be required that you provide a copy of your ID to receive the ballot or when you cast your ballot. provides a comprehensive state-by-state list of the Absentee Ballot Rules.

Why Vote Absentee or by Mail?

Students who are away at college may want to vote in their home state rather than the state they are going to school in, especially if they plan to return. Employees often prefer to vote by mail rather than take time off from work or go after their shift, although employers in most states are required to provide time off to vote. Elderly and disabled individuals may experience more difficulty or be unable to make it the polls, and prefer to vote at home or privately with someone's assistance.

Many voters prefer to vote by mail or absentee simply out of convenience. Voting is a time-consuming process, and unless you write down your choices before walking into the booth, you're going to be spending a few minutes reading over everything in the voting booth. When you vote by mail, you can sit down with your ballot and the voter guide or the internet, and take the time to do some research while voting.

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