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Question of the Month ~ July/August 2013


Q. What states in the Midwest allow no-excuses absentee or early voting, and what are the key differences in these states' laws?

Every state allows citizens to either vote early or vote absentee (by mail or in person), and most states allow both.
Sometimes the terms early voting and in-person absentee voting are used interchangeably. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, says that in-person absentee voting is a form of early voting.
States offer these options to make it more convenient for people to vote; in-person voting also avoids some of the delays encountered when sending applications and ballots up and back by mail.
In many states, early voting is organized like Election Day voting. People come to a designated polling place (county clerk’s office, village hall, etc.), where their name is checked off a list of registered voters. They then cast a vote, and their ballot becomes part of a running tally. In some states with in-person absentee voting, a voter’s ballot is often not tallied until Election Day.
There are other distinctions between absentee voting and early voting, at least as practiced in most states.
Absentee voting, for example, often requires individuals to fill out an application, and voters sometimes must provide an excuse.
In the Midwest, Michigan is the lone state without no-excuses early voting or in-person absentee voting.
Voters in that state must meet at least one of the following criteria to be eligible to receive an absentee ballot: age 60 or older; need assistance in voting at the polls; out of town on Election Day; in jail awaiting arraignment or trial; have a religious reason for not voting at the polls; or working at another precinct on Election Day.
In Indiana, voters must meet certain criteria to cast an absentee ballot by mail. Many of those criteria are the same as or similar to Michigan’s; the state also extends the option of absentee ballots to military or public safety officers, individuals with work constraints, and individuals who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Indiana residents can vote in advance, in person, without any excuse.
This year in Minnesota, a measure was passed (part of HF 894) that allows no-excuse absentee voting.
In the Midwest, Minnesota and South Dakota have the longest early-voting period, which begins 46 days before an election. States also differ on when early voting ends (see table).

Article written by Ilene Grossman. Question of the Month highlights an inquiry received by CSG Midwest through its Information Help Line, a research service for lawmakers, legislative staff and other state officials. We can be reached at csgm@csg.org or 630.925.1922.