- The 2020 presidential election is on November 3, but many states will begin holding early voting starting the week of September 14, seven weeks before Election Day.
- In light of the service disruptions and changes at the Postal Service, major public figures including Barack Obama and Taylor Swift are now encouraging Americans to vote early if they can.
- Early voting allows voters to both cast a ballot without having to rely on the Postal Service and avoid potentially long lines at their voting location on election day.
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The 2020 presidential election is on November 3, but many states will begin holding early voting starting the week of September 14, seven weeks before Election Day.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens have states have made it easier to vote early or by mail. For the November election, nine states and the District of Columbia and many Montana counties will send all or most active registered voters a ballot through the mail that the voter can return to their election office by mail, in person, or to a secure dropbox.
But recent operations changes that the United States Postal Service has made in response to their current financial woes are already noticeably delaying mail in some parts of the country and sparking fears that voters' ballots may not arrive at their homes or back at their election offices in time.
Most states give voters the option to cast their ballot early before Election Day, either by voting at a regular polling place, just as one would do on election day, or by casting a paper ballot early at their local elections office, which is sometimes referred to as "in-person absentee" voting.
Early voting allows voters to both cast a ballot without having to rely on the Postal Service and avoid potentially long lines at their voting location on Election Day, an attractive option for those concerned about mail delays and the safety of voting in-person.
In addition to the states sending all or most voters a mail-in ballot, 25 states and D.C. are set to hold traditional early voting at polling places or vote centers, 16 states will allow voters to cast their ballots early at their local election offices, and nine states will hold no in-person early voting.
In-person absentee voting is currently unable to begin as scheduled this week, however, in Pennsylvania due to ongoing litigation over whether the Green Party's presidential and vice-presidential nominees will be allowed on the ballot. The lawsuit is delaying Pennsylvania's official November ballot from being certified and currently leaving election officials in limbo, unable to send out ballots as planned.
As noted on the chart, some states sending every voter a mail ballot will also hold limited in-person early voting before election day.
Many states have extended early voting as well as vote by mail due to the pandemic. Texas' Republican Governor Greg Abbott added nearly a week of additional early voting for the November election with an executive order.
And in Kentucky, which didn't hold no-excuse early voting before the pandemic, the state's Democratic governor and Republican Secretary of State came to a bipartisan agreement to hold three weeks of early voting from October 13 through November 2.
Some of the states that hold all-mail elections, like Washington and Oregon, don't have early voting and election day in the traditional sense we sometimes think of, but rather a three-week "voting period" where voters receive their ballots and can return them anytime by Election Day, or receive assistance filling out a ballot.
If you plan to cast a ballot early, be sure to double-check with your local elections office if early voting will be held at a polling place or at your county's election office, and verify the hours during which you can vote, since they may vary from normal Election Day voting hours.
Additionally, make sure to bring the necessary identification to the polls if you live in one of the 34 states that require a photo or non-photo ID to vote, prepare to wait in a longer line than you may be used to, and take necessary precautions like wearing a mask and frequently washing your hands to protect yourself and others.
If you'd like to help serve your community even further and help mitigate the major nationwide shortages of available poll-workers, consider becoming an election worker in your state or county.