California has an early vote

Everything you need to know about the United States electoral process

In the United States, unfortunately, the first step in voting is not as easy as 18. You must first register to vote, and each state has different rules and regulations for this step that are very different.


Automatic voter registration with the DMV

In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), or "Motor Voters Act". The NVRA allows a person to register to vote or update their registration while applying for or renewing a driver's license. It is important to check how your state implements the NVRA. While some states, like Oregon, allow voters to be registered automatically, other states, like Texas, simply redirect DMV voters to the state's registration website.

Registration of voters on the same day

21 states and the District of Columbia have same day registration, so eligible voters can register the same day they cast their votes. If you plan to register on the same day, check your state's requirements to make sure you have all of the documentation required for registration, such as proof of residence and ID.

Online voter registration

40 states and the District of Columbia offer online voter registration. This option is often used as a complement to other forms of voter registration.

Personal voter registration

In many states, you can also register in person to vote on a local electoral board, public library or college, or other government agency. In some states, personal registration is required. In New Hampshire, for example, voters are typically required to register in person and can only apply for registration by mail if they cannot register in person.

Early voting

Once you have registered to vote, there is no need to wait until election day to cast your vote. While you can of course vote in any state on election day, many states allow voting in the weeks leading up to election day - this process is known as "early voting". Most states offer some form of early voting.

There are two main types of early voting: personal early voting and early postal voting. With millions of people planning to vote in absentia for the first time, it is extremely important to understand the simple difference between the two types of early voting.

Personal early voting

Personal early voting enables you to cast your vote in person, just like you would on election day - just early! You simply go to a designated place to vote ahead of time during polling station opening hours and vote. However, when and where you can vote early in person will vary from state to state.

In some states, you can vote 45 days before the election or the weekend before. In most states, early voting ends a few days before election day. Make sure of when your state offers early voting, mark your calendar, and plan your election. Ask yourself when and where you will vote. Make this decision now so that you have plenty of time to carry out your plan.

Early choice of absence

There are two different forms of absentee voting: postal voting and personal voting. Let's focus on the latter. Personal early absentee voting allows you to bypass the mail and go straight to a designated polling location to receive and place your absentee vote (remember that "absentee voting" and "absentee voting" are used interchangeably).

After you have registered with a polling officer, you will receive a paper voting slip - the same voting slip that you would have received if you had submitted it in the mail. Then all you have to do is fill out and submit the voting slip. The personal postal vote gives voters the opportunity to vote in good time in countries that traditionally do not offer the option to vote in advance. For example, Pennsylvania does not have early voting, but the state allows voters to come to the district polling station one and a half months before polling day to request and submit a postal ballot.

Early voting is a great option for 2020 voters who are concerned about voting in the mail, who don't want to wait to receive a ballot in the mail, who don't want to wait in long lines on election day, or who just want to vote want to submit early. Whether your state offers early in-person voting or early postal voting, be sure to research the locations available, write down opening times, and plan your voting schedule.

Sorry for voting by post

Once you have registered to vote, there are a number of ways to cast your ballot, including early voting and voting on election day. Another option in most countries is "postal voting" or "postal voting", in which the state sends you a voting slip by post. Depending on your state, you can return this ballot to either the mail, a ballot box, or a personal voting location.

An important rule to keep in mind when deciding whether to vote in absentia is if your state requires you to have a specific reason or "excuse" for voting by absenteeism. States that require you to have a specific reason to vote by post use excuse absentee voting, while states that allow anyone who is absent to vote use the "excuse absentee voting" no-excuse absentee voting ".

Every state has its own rules and excuses, and the difference between excused and unexcused postal voting is even more complicated in 2020 due to COVID-19. Here are some of the key differences to note:

Vote without apology in absentia

Anyone wishing to receive a voting slip in the mail can request it. If you want to vote in a state absent without excuse, you should receive your voting slip in the mail as soon as you have requested one. Depending on the rules of your state, you can then return the ballot either by post, in a ballot box, or to a voting location.

Even if you have requested a postal ballot, in most states, as long as you have not returned it or mailed it, you can vote in person either during the early voting period or on election day.

This is a helpful option if you don't receive your postal ballot on time or are concerned that your ballot will arrive at your polling station before the deadline. Some states that used apologies in previous elections now have absentee absentee voting, so be sure to check your state's rules on postal voting.

Sorry for out-of-office voting

You must have one of the accepted reasons for using a postal vote. Examples of acceptable reasons could be that you are out of state or county on election day, or that you have an illness or disability that prevents you from voting. Some states have many acceptable reasons while others are very limited.

Depending on your state, you may simply need to fill in a box on your application form for one of these reasons, or provide evidence that you meet one of the reasons for absenteeism. Many states have also changed their postal voting rules due to COVID-19, so it's important to check your state's rules even if you weren't allowed to vote by post the last time you voted.

So what do you do if you (1) live in a state that has an apology for postal voting, and (2) do not have any of the acceptable postal voting excuses in your state? You have to vote in person. If you want to avoid queues and keep contact with others as low as possible, one of the best ways is to check if your state is eligible for early voting and voting before election day.

Voting deadlines by post

A voter in Sacramento, California, and one voter in Flint, Michigan, post their ballots three days before election day. Each ballot paper is stamped three days before the election day and arrives at the respective local election offices the day after the election day. However, only one ballot counts. Why?

According to some state laws, postal ballots are counted as long as the ballot is stamped by election day and arrives at the local election office within a certain number of days after the election day. This type of postal vote is known as the deadline for the postal voting slip. For example, in California, a postal ballot is considered valid if it is postmarked by election day and arrives at the local polling station within 17 days of election day.

What does "stamped" really mean?

A postmark is an official print on a piece of mail indicating the place and date the postal service accepted the mail. The postmark may look different on the back envelope of your voting slip. For example, the stamps can be provided with a hand stamp or automatically with a date or barcode.

On the other hand, in some states the ballot must be received by election day in order for a postal vote to be counted. This type of postal vote is known as the deadline for inbox. In Michigan, for example, postal ballot papers must be received by polling officers by 8:00 p.m. on election day.

So what's the difference?

The requirement for voters to receive their ballot papers by election day is different from the postmark on election day, as voters have to allow for processing times for mail. If received on time, voters must consider how long it will take for their ballot to arrive at their local polling station. In normal years, voters could expect their ballot to arrive at their local polling station within a few days, leaving enough time for the count. However, this year is different.

Collection of community ballots

In many states, designated organizations, poll workers, or family members may collect a voter's signed and sealed ballot and hand the ballot to poll workers on behalf of the voter. This option, known as the Community Ballot Collection, provides a safe and easy way for voters to cast their ballots.

Why is ballot collection important in the community?

Collecting community ballots is a particularly important option for voters who are elderly, disabled, or have limited transportation. It helps marginalized communities where high rates of poverty, underdeveloped infrastructure and inflexible working hours make it difficult for voters to submit their ballots on time. And in the face of COVID-19, the municipal ballot collection enables trustworthy municipal organizations to support voters who are at high risk and unable to leave their homes.

What is the collection of community ballots like in different states?

While some states allow the collection of community ballots, other states have restricted or prohibited this practice. Several states severely limit the number of ballots that someone helping with ballot collection can collect.

In Montana, for example, a person can only collect up to six ballot papers. This restriction has put a strain on Native American voters in Montana - many of them live in remote areas, far from district polling officers, with limited access to transportation and postal services, and have relied on local ballot collection to vote in elections.

Other states ban community organizations' ballot collection altogether and cut critical assistance to the voters who need it most (in Alabama, voters cannot even get their family members to return their ballots to them).

How does the ballot collection work?

The municipal ballot collection can be safely carried out and practiced. States that allow ballot collection require that ballot papers be signed and sealed upon collection, thereby preventing a third party from tampering with the ballot paper. And if ballots are not properly served, a person helping with ballot collection runs the risk of being convicted of a crime. Additionally, voters who vote by mail often have the option to track their ballots to ensure that they were properly submitted.

Voting overseas

Americans who are eligible to vote can do so from anywhere in the world, regardless of how long they lived overseas or whether they were a resident of the United States.

Each state is required by the Federal Act to Authorize the Military and Overseas Voters ("MOVE") to provide the military and overseas voters ("UOCAVA Voters") with blank absentee ballots in at least one electronic format - by e-mail. Mail, fax or online delivery system - to be made available. Each state must do this at least 45 days before an election.

However, the MOVE Act does not specify how the civil ballots should be returned to the US - that decision is up to each state. Currently, 30 states allow UOCAVA voters to submit their completed ballots electronically; Twenty states still require paper ballots to be returned.

So how can overseas voters properly register, receive their ballot papers and send them back in time for the election to be counted? Here is some information you need to know:

Register as a UOCAVA. Voters should ensure that they are properly registered as UOCAVA voters with their US-based Local Election Office (LEO). You can do this online at Here you can fill out your registration or application form for the ballot papers, sign it and then send it back, the so-called Federal Postcard Application (FPCA).

Remember that you will need to apply for your ballot paper each calendar year that you wish to vote. By requesting your ballot, you protect your vote at the federal level and ensure that it is counted in the event of a close election.

Review deadlines, ballot submission, and specific identification requirements for your state. provides country-specific information when filling out the form. You can also go to to see what conditions apply to your state.

If you need to return your paper ballot, confirm that the country you are in is sending mail to the US. The list of countries that do not send mail to the United States is regularly updated on the US Postal Service website. If normal mail is out of the question or just takes too long, there are other options:

Private courier service

Every country that returns paper voting papers has confirmed that it accepts voting papers from abroad by private courier. This is an expensive but quick fix.

Diplomatic suitcase

In many countries, voters can cast their sealed ballot papers at their local U.S. embassy or consulate. Before submitting them, voters must seal their ballot paper in a stamped return envelope or have sufficient US postage on the envelope of their ballot paper so that it can be delivered from the USA to their polling station.

If you're having problems with mail delivery, choose with an FWAB.Recognizing the need for overseas voters to return their ballots in a timely manner, the federal government allows UOCAVA voters, the Federal Write In Absentee Ballot, or FWAB, to use a regular ballot in cases where it will not be possible Of the electoral deadlines. This option is only available to UOCAVA voters (so log in first and request your voting slip). To access an FWAB, go to for more information and provide specific details.

Any American overseas who are eligible to vote can do this, regardless of where in the world they live. By following the steps above, U.S. citizens voting overseas can ensure that their ballots are returned in time for counting.