Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn how we make money.

How to cast your absentee ballot for the 2020 presidential election

With USPS struggling and concerns about in-person voting, make sure your vote is counted on Election Day.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked
Vote pin on absentee ballot application

Election Day is coming up on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. But this year’s presidential election has presented two unique challenges: the US Postal Service is facing a funding crisis, and COVID-19 has made Americans skeptical about in-person voting.

The good news? Many states have opened up absentee and early voting to more residents, and voters can explore drop boxes and private delivery services to ensure their ballot arrives on time.

About this page: We compiled this information with the help of government sources, including State Secretary sites and the US Vote Foundation, as well as our conversations with mail carriers across the country. With news about the USPS evolving and states still navigating the challenges of COVID-19, this guidance could change. For the most accurate information about your rights, contact your local election office.

Can I vote by mail for the November 3rd election?

It’s likely. Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, most states allow residents to cast absentee or mail-in votes for any reason — including a fear of contracting or spreading the coronavirus.

In-person voting is the only option in just seven states, though some states are still finalizing their guidelines.

To put these numbers into context, The Washington Post reports that 77% of Americans — or 180 million — are eligible to vote by mail for the presidential election.

Watch our short video where we take you step-by-step through the process of getting your absentee ballot and casting your vote for this year’s presidential election.

How to vote by mail across the US

Rules and regulations around early and absentee voting vary among states. Some states specify the exact time your ballot must be postmarked by, while others simply offer a date.

To guarantee your vote gets to your election officials on time, aim to send your ballot well before the due date.

Deadlines are listed in local time.

StateEarly votingAbsentee votingDeadline to apply for an absentee ballotPostmark deadline for completed ballot
AlabamaNot availableOnly voters who can’t physically make it to a polling placeOctober 29November 2 at 5 p.m.
AlaskaAvailable in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Soldotna and Wasilla from October 19 to November 1Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 26 for mail applications
November 2 for online requests
November 3
ArizonaAvailable between October 7 and October 30Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 30November 3 at 7 p.m.
ArkansasAvailable between October 19 and November 2Voters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19October 27November 3 at 7.30 p.m.
CaliforniaAvailable between October 5 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3
ColoradoAvailable between October 19 and November 2, but closed on Sundays and Saturday, October 24Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3 at 7 p.m.
ConnecticutNot availableVoters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19November 2November 3
DelawareNot availableVoters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19October 30 for mail applications
November 2 for in-person requests
November 3
District of ColumbiaAvailable between October 27 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3 at 8 p.m.
FloridaAvailable between October 24 and October 31Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 24November 3
GeorgiaAvailable between October 12 and October 30Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 30November 2
HawaiiAvailable between October 20 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3
IdahoAvailable between October 17 and October 31, but days and times vary by countyVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 30November 3
IllinoisAvailable between October 19 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMost registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot prior to the election.

Otherwise:
October 29 to request an absentee ballot by mail
November 2 for in-person requests.

November 3
IndianaAvailable between October 6 and November 2Voters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19October 22November 3
IowaAvailable between October 5 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 30November 3
KansasAvailable between October 14 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 30November 2
KentuckyNot availableTo be determined — however, voters were allowed to cast absentee ballots for any reason during the primary election earlier this yearOctober 27November 3 at 6 p.m.
LouisianaAvailable between October 20 and October 27Voters can only request an absentee ballot if they’re elderly, a member of the clergy or temporarily living out of stateOctober 30November 2 at 4.30 p.m.
MaineAvailable between October 12 and October 29Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 31November 3 at 8 p.m.
MarylandAvailable between October 22 and October 29Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 20November 3
MassachusettsAvailable between October 17 and October 30Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 28

Mail-in ballot applications will be sent to all registered voters prior to the election

November 3 at 8 p.m.
MichiganNot availableVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 30November 3 at 8 p.m.
MinnesotaAvailable between September 18 and November 2, but days and times vary by countyVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonNovember 3November 3
MississippiNot availableVoters can only cast an absentee ballot if they’re elderly, out-of-state, or have another extenuating circumstance — but COVID-19 concerns don’t countNo deadline yetNovember 2 at 5 p.m for mail-in ballots
October 29 for ballots returned in person
MissouriNot availableVoters can cast an absentee ballot if they’re at risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19.

This category includes those with diabetes, seniors ages 65+, those who live in long-term care facilities and immunocompromised people of all ages.

October 21November 3 at 7 p.m.
MontanaAvailable between October 12 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonNovember 2 at 12 noon.November 3 at 8 p.m.
NebraskaAvailable between October 4 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 23November 3 at 8 p.m.
NevadaAvailable between October 17 and October 30Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 20November 3 at 7 p.m.
New HampshireNot availableVoters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19November 2November 3 at 5 p.m. for mail-in ballots
November 2 at 5 p.m. for ballots returned in person
New JerseyNot availableVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 27November 2 at 3 p.m.
New MexicoAvailable between October 17 and October 31Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 20 for mail applications
October 29 for online applications
November 3 at 7 p.m.
New YorkAvailable between October 24 and November 1Voters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19October 27 for mail applications
November 2 for in-person requests
November 2
North CarolinaAvailable between October 15 and October 31Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 27November 3
North DakotaAvailable between October 19 and November 2, though days and times vary by countyVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonNovember 2November 2
OhioAvailable between October 6 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 31November 2 for mail-in ballots
November 3 at 7.30 p.m. for ballots returned in person
OklahomaAvailable between October 29 and October 31.Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 28November 3
OregonNot availableOregon doesn’t offer in-person voting — all votes are cast by mailMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3
PennsylvaniaNot availableVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 27November 3
Rhode IslandAvailable between October 14 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 16November 3 at 8 p.m.
South CarolinaAvailable to those with a valid absentee excuse from October 5 to November 2Voters can only cast an absentee ballot if they’re incapacitated, elderly or can’t physically get to a polling place due to work obligationsOctober 30November 3 at 7 p.m.
South DakotaAvailable between September 18 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonNovember 2November 3 at 7 p.m.
TennesseeAvailable between October 14 and October 29Voters can request an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about contracting or transmitting COVID-19October 27November 3 at 8 p.m.
TexasAvailable between October 20 and October 31Voters can only cast an absentee ballot if they’re out-of-state, over 65, imprisoned or have a disability — and the Texas Supreme Court recently ruled that “lack of immunity to COVID-19” doesn’t count as a disabilityOctober 23November 3 at 7 p.m.
UtahAvailable between October 20 and October 30Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3
VermontAvailable between September 20 and November 2Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3
VirginiaAvailable for voters with an absentee excuse from September 18 to October 31, and all other voters from October 24 to October 31Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 27 for mail-in applications
October 31 for in-person requests
November 3 at 7 p.m
WashingtonNot availableVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonMail-in ballots will be sent to all registered voters prior to the electionNovember 3
West VirginiaAvailable between October 21 and 31Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 28November 3
WisconsinAvailable between September 17 and November 1Voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonOctober 29 for mail-in applications
October 30 for in-person requests
November 3
WyomingAvailable between September 18 and November 2 but days and times vary by countyVoters can cast an absentee ballot for any reasonNovember 2November 3

Where to send your mail-in ballot

Once you’ve completed your absentee ballot, send it to the address printed on the return envelope.
Typically, this is your local election office.

Military and overseas voters can send their ballot via a US Post Office, Military Postal Service Agency or US Diplomatic Pouch Mail for free.

In most states, domestic voters have to pay the $0.55 postage. However, 17 states offer prepaid postage for ballots returned via USPS, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL):

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

New Jersey leaves it up to county clerks to decide whether they want to provide a postage-paid envelope, according to NCSL.

Are you registered to vote?

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, head to Vote.gov to learn how in your state.

Generally, you can take one of three paths:

  • Register online. This option is available in 39 states and Washington, DC, and for overseas and military voters.
  • Register in person. Go to your local election office or public facilities like the DMV, WIC or US armed forces recruitment centers.
  • Register by mail. Download, complete and send the National Mail Voter Registration Form by mail to the location listed for your state.

Alternatives to USPS for mailing your ballot

Election ballots are traditionally handled by the USPS. But due to a lack of funding, the USPS has warned 46 states and DC that it may not be able to deliver ballots on time, according to CNN.

The guidance about using private mail companies is murky at this point. Based on our conversations with major carriers, voters can use some services to send mail-in and absentee ballots — but at their own expense.

This is similar to the process of voting abroad, where voters can use professional courier services if “time is short or local mail unreliable,” according to the US Department of State.

However, Reuters reports private carriers can only accept ballots sent the day before and day of Election Day, as these “deliveries are deemed ‘extremely urgent’ by statute.”

Where private mail carriers stand on election ballots

We’ll update this table as clearer guidelines and regulations are released.

Mail carrierAccepts US absentee ballotsWhat to know
FedExYes.

“FedEx does accept individual ballots for shipment, and we advise that customers planning to return their ballots via FedEx should closely review their state’s guidelines on absentee voting and deadlines for ballots or related election documents,” a spokesperson told Finder.

FedEx doesn’t deliver to PO boxes.

If your return envelope lists a PO box address, consider taking your ballot to a drop box instead.

UPSNo, according to a UPS statement given to Reuters.
USA CouriersYes.

USA Couriers can deliver ballots in all 50 states. There’s a pickup deadline of 2 p.m. for same- and next-day delivery, a spokesperson told Finder.

DHLTBD
LaserShipTBD
TFITBDTFI has no comment at this time, according to a spokesperson.

Using a drop box to submit your ballot

Another option is taking your ballot to a designated drop box. At the moment, 11 states have drop boxes set up in some or all counties, according to NCSL:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington

Drop boxes are secure containers that accept sealed envelopes, making them a good option for those who want to avoid the postal service and polling places completely. Some boxes are available and monitored by surveillance cameras 24/7, while others are open during specified business hours, when they can be supervised by election officials.

Typically, drop boxes are placed in accessible and convenient spots, such as city office buildings, community centers, college campuses and local libraries.

Will more drop boxes become available?

Maybe. The US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) recommends counties install one drop box for every 15,000 to 20,000 voters.

The EAC also instructs officials to make the locations of these drop boxes publicly known at least 80 days before an election — which was Saturday, August 15.

Bottom line

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have opened up absentee ballots to all — or most — voters. And while the only way to receive an absentee or mail-in ballot is through USPS, there are other ways to submit your ballot outside of the postal service.

If you’re worried about USPS delays or going to a polling place, you can explore drop boxes or using a private mail carrier — though you’ll need to cover the cost of postage.

This guidance is evolving, so please rely on your local election office for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site