Voting by Mail in the 2020 Election

Election Day is just weeks away. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some states have modified election laws to expand access to mail-in voting. The avenue will be especially beneficial for older Americans who are more susceptible to the virus. For others, however, heading to the ballot box in-person is no different than taking a trip to the grocery store.

Before this year, voting by mail was most common in California, North Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Hawaii. Whether it was state-wide, or only some localities, voters had the option to cast their ballot in person or through mail-in alternatives. For many, this has been a viable option in the past. For example, in California’s 2016 general election, over 57 percent of ballots were cast by mail.

Now, due to the pandemic, Nevada, Vermont, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. are among other that have decided to do the same and have preemptively mailed ballots directly to voters.

Beyond mail in ballots, the unusual circumstances of this year shifted a lot of states to encourage absentee voting—something Americans in 34 states can utilize this year. For seven states, including New York and Texas, an excuse (beyond COVID-19) is required for a voter to cast an absentee ballot. Otherwise, voters are expected to vote in-person. 

Adjustments to traditional voting were necessary this year to ensure every American has the chance to cast a vote safely. To know where your state stands on voting by mail, check out this interactive map from The New York Times.