• Sat. Oct 24th, 2020

The Best Way to Vote in Every State – Slate


Americans tend to think of voting as something you do on Election Day, a sacred democratic ritual: go to the polls, fill out your ballot in a booth, then wear an “I Voted” sticker to tout your civic virtue. The reality is often messier than that, as we’ve seen every year in the hourslong lines, broken machines, and utter confusion at polling places across the country. In 2020, amid a pandemic, this ritual is not only ineffective—it may also be dangerous.

Our ability to exercise the right to vote is under threat. President Donald Trump has assailed mail-in voting, even though it is safe, secure, and more popular than ever before. He has refused vital funding for the U.S. Postal Service, the agency millions rely on to return their absentee ballots. But even before the Trump administration started messing with the post office, many states had steadily built up obstacles to the franchise. Others, meanwhile, have expanded voting access. Now, in the vast majority of states, there are multiple ways to vote.

This guide is designed to help Americans vote—and make sure their ballots are actually counted. It is written for voters who are understandably worried that their vote might not be counted due to the vagaries of mail delivery and state election laws. And it assumes that voters will prefer to minimize their exposure to other individuals during a pandemic. Our chief goal is to recommend the safest, easiest, most reliable voting options in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We explain how you can vote absentee, from the safety of your own home, then return your ballot without relying on USPS.

Although every state sets a date by which absentee ballots must be received to be counted, we have excluded those from our recommendations in light of this year’s unusual circumstances. USPS fears that tens of millions of voters who rely on these dates will be disenfranchised, calling the states’ schedules “incongruous” with the facts on the ground. Even before the current slowdown, the agency worried that state deadlines to request absentee ballots were too ambitious. Instead, we urge voters to request an absentee ballot immediately—as in, right now—and return it well in advance of Nov. 3.

A map showing for each state whether it is very easy, moderately easy, moderately difficult, or very difficult to vote.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Alabama

Register to vote by: Oct. 19            
Early in-person voting: None
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID unless two election officials personally attest to your identity.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, though all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: Absentee ballots must be signed by two witnesses and a notary public.
How easy is it to vote here: Very difficult

You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at a board of registrars. There is no same-day registration. When returning their ballot, voters will need to include a photocopy of their ID. Absentee ballots must be signed by two witnesses and a notary public. You can usually find a notary public at a bank, and the service is often free if you’re already a customer.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot now, fill it out at home, and return it by mail or in person. Each county has a separate application form and a different absentee election manager. You can request your ballot from these officials, then mail it back or hand-deliver it to them. A list of absentee election managers, including contact info is available here.

Alaska

Register to vote by: Oct. 4
Early in-person voting: Oct. 19–Nov. 2, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document with your name and address; an election official can waive this requirement by attesting to your identity.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Absentee ballots must be signed by a witness—a requirement that many voters forget to fulfill.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult 

You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your local clerk’s office or public library. Qualified Alaska voters who’ve applied for a Permanent Fund Dividend (oil money paid out by the state to residents who’ve lived in Alaska for a full year and intend to stay there) are automatically registered. There is no same-day registration. When returning their ballot, most voters will need to include a photocopy of an “identifier,” which includes not just government-issued IDs but also utility bills, bank statements, paychecks, or other government documents with the voter’s name and address. Absentee ballots must be signed by one witness.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot online and drop it off at a drop box, if available. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received.

Arizona

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 7, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued ID or an identifying document like a bank statement, utility bill, or vehicle registration.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Residents cannot vote in person without valid identification, even if they attest to their identity and swear they don’t have the funds to fulfill the ID requirement.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy 

Arizona will mail an absentee ballot application to all active voters this fall. You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your county recorder’s office. There is no same-day registration. If you’re disabled, a family member, household member, or caregiver may place your ballot in the mail or hand-deliver it. There is no witness requirement. If the signature on the absentee ballot envelope is “inconsistent” with the signature on the voter registration form, the county recorder must make “reasonable efforts” to notify the voter and permit a correction. A signature must be corrected within three days of the election.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your absentee ballot at home and drop it off at any early voting site in your county, a county recorder’s office, or a drop box, if available. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it’s received.

Arkansas

Register to vote by: Oct. 5               
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 19, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or an accredited postsecondary educational institution in Arkansas; you can also sign a sworn statement attesting to your identity, subject to approval by county board of election commissioners.)
Vote by mail: Excuse needed, though all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: A draconian and opaque signature mismatch law
How easy is it to vote here: Very difficult

You can register to vote by mail or in person with your county clerk. There is no same-day registration. Arkansas law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they are not required to inform voters State law does not lay out a process by which voters can correct a mismatched signature. Arkansans who vote by mail may thus not know if their ballots have been nullified. Counties do not tell the state how many absentee ballots are rejected due to signature mismatch each election.

Slate’s recommendation: Voters who are not at a heightened risk for COVID-19 should vote early in-person. Voters who qualify can request an absentee ballot and return it in person. Voters who choose this option must deliver their ballot to the county clerk by Nov. 2. Those who return their ballot by mail must ensure that it is received by Election Day. All absentee voters must include a photocopy of an acceptable ID along with their ballot.

California

Register to vote by: Oct. 19 (or at the polls through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Oct. 5–Nov. 2, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: None                                 
Vote by mail: Ballots are automatically mailed to all active registered voters. No excuse needed.
Notable hurdle: None. California is a leader in hurdle-free voting. 
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at a DMV or county elections office. Many post offices, public libraries, and other government offices also offer voter registration. If you have previously interacted with the California DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. California law requires election officials to check absentee ballots for signature mismatch. If they detect a mismatch—or do not see a signature at all—they must notify the voter by Nov. 25 and allow them to fix the defect by providing a statement that verifies their identity by Dec. 1.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your absentee ballot at home and drop it off at your early voting site, a county elections office, or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress to ensure it is received.

Colorado

Register to vote by: Oct. 26 (or at the polls through Election Day)     
Early in-person voting: Must begin no later than Oct. 19, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a government-issued ID or an identifying document like a bank statement, utility bill, or vehicle registration; if you don’t have ID, election officials must try to confirm your identity using existing records.)
Vote by mail: Ballots are automatically mailed to all active registered voters. 
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

Colorado will mail ballots to all active registered voters this fall. You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at a county election office, DMV, polling place, or armed forces recruitment office. If you have previously interacted with the Colorado DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Colorado law requires election officials to check absentee ballots for signature mismatch. If they detect a mismatch, they must notify the voter within three days, or no later than two days after Election Day. Voters may fix the defect by completing a form that confirms the voter’s identity and includes a photocopy of a government-issued ID or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document with the voter’s name and address.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out an absentee ballot at home and drop it off at your early voting site, a county elections office, or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received. All that information is available here.

Connecticut

Register to vote by: Oct. 27 (or at the polls on Election Day)
Early in-person voting: None
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show any preprinted form with your name and address or sign an affidavit attesting to your identity.)        
Vote by mail: Excuse needed, but all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: There is no in-person early voting. 
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

Connecticut plans to mail absentee ballot applications to all active voters this fall. You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your registrar’s office. If you have previously interacted with the Connecticut DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls on Election Day, but you must then vote in person at your local Election Day registration location.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your town clerk’s office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a caregiver or a family member to do it for you. All that information is available here.

Delaware

Register to vote by: Oct. 10             
Early in-person voting: None
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show any identifying document or sign an affidavit attesting to your identity.)
Vote by mail: Excuse needed, but all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle:
There is no in-person early voting.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

Delaware plans to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters this fall. You must register to vote by Oct. 10 online, by mail, or in person at your Department of Elections’ county office. There is no same-day registration. Voters who forget to sign their ballots will not have a chance to correct the error, and their votes will not be counted.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your Department of Elections’ county office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask someone else to do it for you. All that information is available here.

District of Columbia

Register to vote by: Oct. 13 (or at the polls through Election Day)     
Early in-person voting: Oct. 27–Nov. 2
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: Ballots will be automatically mailed to all active registered voters in November. No excuse needed.
Notable hurdle: There is no online registration. 
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

The District of Columbia plans to mail absentee ballots to all active registered voters. You can register to vote by Oct. 13 by mail, or in person at a government agency or early voting site. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your ballot at home and drop it off at a drop box or early voting location. There will be 50 drop boxes around the city and 17 early vote centers. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you can have someone else do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received.

Florida

Register to vote by: Oct. 5 
Early in-person voting: Must begin statewide by Oct. 24, but counties may begin offering it on Oct. 19
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a photo ID or provide a signature that officials match to the signature from your voter registration form.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle:
Voters cannot return absentee ballots to early voting sites.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

You must register to vote by Oct. 5 online, by mail, or in person at a DMV or many other government agencies. There is no same-day registration. Florida law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, election officials must notify the voter “as soon as practicable.” Voters must fix the defect by submitting an affidavit within two days of the election.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your supervisor of elections’ office or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may have someone else do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received.

Georgia

Register to vote by: Oct. 5 
Early in-person voting: Must begin statewide by Oct. 12, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle:
The state’s voter ID law is notoriously stringent.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 5 online, by mail, or at your county registrar’s office. The state requires no excuse to vote by mail. There is no same-day registration. Georgia law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. Under a court settlement, if a ballot is rejected for signature mismatch, election officials must promptly notify voters and give them an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county registrar’s office, or a drop box if your county offers it. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself due to a disability, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received. All that information is available here.

Hawaii

Register to vote by: Oct. 5 (or at the polls through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Oct. 20–Nov. 2, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a government-issued ID or an identifying document like a bank statement, utility bill, or vehicle registration; if you don’t have these documents, you can simply recite your address and date of birth.)
Vote by mail: Ballots are automatically mailed to all active registered voters.
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your County Election Division by Oct. 5. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your ballot at home and drop it off at any early voting site in your county, a county elections office, or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received. Hawaii law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch—or do not see a signature at all—they must promptly notify the voter and allow them to fix the defect within five days after the election.

Idaho

Register to vote by: Oct. 9 (or at the polls through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Oct. 19–30, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or a school in the state, or sign an affidavit confirming your identity.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Election officials aren’t required to let voters fix a signature mismatch.
How easy is it to vote: Moderately easy

You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your local elections office by Oct. 9. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. This process is called same-day registration. Idaho law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they are not obligated to notify the voter and allow them to fix the defect. Election officials have nonetheless instituted procedures that let voters remedy an alleged signature mismatch.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county clerk’s office. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received.

Illinois

Registration deadline: Oct. 6 by mail, Oct. 18 online, through Election Day in person
Early in-person voting: Sept. 24–Nov. 2, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: The state botched implementation of automatic voter registration, so do not assume you’ve been automatically registered even if you should’ve been.
How easy is it to vote: Very easy

You can register to vote by mail by Oct. 6 or online until Oct. 18. If you do not register by these deadlines, you can register at your local elections office or at your early voting site through Election Day. You can also register at the polls on Election Day, but you must then vote in person.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at a local elections office or drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties. All that information is available here. Illinois law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch—or find any missing information—they must notify the voter within two days and allow them to fix the defect within 14 days of the election.

Indiana

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person early voting: Beginning Oct. 6, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID; if you do not have one, you must return after the election and attest that you are too poor to get one.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, and fear of COVID-19 does not count
Notable hurdle: Fear of COVID-19, by itself, is not a valid excuse to vote by mail.
How easy is it to vote: Very difficult

You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your county clerk’s office by Oct. 5. There is no same-day registration. Indiana law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. In August, a federal judge ordered Indiana to provide voters notice and an opportunity to cure any ballot voided for mismatch. Given the federal judiciary’s hostility to voting rights, Indiana residents have no guarantee that this decision will remain in effect through November.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote early in person. Even if you qualify to vote absentee, the state has a stringent signature mismatch law that may void your ballot. Indiana law does not require election officials to notify voters when their ballots have been nullified due to signature mismatch. If officials do provide notification, the remedy is byzantine: You must obtain a certificate from their county board by 5 p.m. on Election Day, then vote in person—defeating the purpose of voting absentee in the first place.

Iowa

Register to vote by: Oct. 24 (or at your county auditor’s office or the polls on Election Day)
Early in-person voting: None, although you can fill out your absentee ballot at your county auditor’s office, which provides an accessible ballot marking device for disabled people
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID; if you don’t have one, another registered voter in their precinct must attest to your identity.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: A stringent voter ID law requirement for in-person voters
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

Iowa will mail an absentee ballot application to all active voters this fall. You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your county auditor’s office. You can also register at the polls on Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Election officials must promptly notify voters who forget to sign their absentee ballot affidavit—or commit another error in completing their ballot—and give them an opportunity to fix the problem by submitting a replacement ballot or voting in person.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at their county auditor’s office or drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Kansas

Register to vote by: Oct. 13
Early in-person voting: Must begin by Oct. 27, but offered as early as Oct. 14 in some areas (dates and hours vary by county)
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or an accredited postsecondary education institution in Kansas; you can also show a concealed carry permit from any state.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: A stringent voter ID requirement for in-person voters
How easy is it to vote: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your county clerk’s office by Oct. 13. There is no same-day registration. Kansas law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch—or do not see a signature at all—they must promptly notify the voter and allow them to fix the defect before the final county canvass.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county auditor’s office or drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties. All that information is available here.

Kentucky

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 13, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or a school; if you can’t obtain an ID, you must explain why, then provide other proof of identity, such as a credit card.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, but all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: Absentee ballots are returned in two envelopes, and both must be signed; thousands of voters forgot to sign both in the primary and lost their votes.
How easy is it to vote: Moderately easy

You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your county election office by Oct. 5. There is no same-day registration. Kentucky law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. It does not require them to notify voters whose ballots are voided for mismatch. However, during the June primary, Secretary of State Michael Adams implemented a system that gave voters notice of signature mismatch and an opportunity to fix the defect. He is expected to maintain this system in the general election.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at their county clerk’s office (by appointment) or drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online.

Louisiana

Register to vote by: Oct. 5 by mail or in person, or Oct. 13 online
Early in-person voting: Must begin by Oct. 20, but dates and times vary by parish
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show some photo ID with your name and signature, or sign an affidavit attesting to your identity.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, and fear of COVID-19 does not count
Notable hurdle: Absentee voters must get a witness to sign their ballot.
How easy is it to vote: Very difficult

You must register to vote by mail or in person at your local registrar of voters by Oct. 5, or online by Oct. 13. Louisiana law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. It does not require election officials to notify voters whose ballots are voided for signature mismatch. However, Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin promulgated a process through which voters in the Louisiana primary could correct a mismatched signature and is expected to promulgate similar rules for the general election. Absentee ballots must be signed by a witness.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote early in person. If you qualify to vote absentee, you can request an absentee ballot and drop it off at your registrar of voters. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. Under a plan proposed by Ardoin (and not yet passed by the Legislature), you might also be able to hand off ballots to election officials curbside. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online to ensure it is received.

Maine

Register to vote by: Oct. 13 (or when you vote in person through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your municipal clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: A confusing and unfair signature mismatch law
How easy is it to vote: Moderately easy

You must register to vote by mail or in person at your municipal clerk’s office, city hall, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, or social services agency by Oct. 13. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls on Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Maine law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file if the voter filled out an absentee ballot request form. Specifically, officials compare the signature on this form to the signature accompanying their ballot. If they detect a mismatch, they simply void the ballot without giving the voter an opportunity to fix the error. People who request an absentee ballot online or by phone—or who vote in person at their municipal clerk’s office—are exempt from this rule because they do not provide a second signature for comparison. Voting rights advocates are currently suing the state over its signature mismatch regime.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot online or by phone, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your municipal clerk’s office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. Individuals who prefer to cast a ballot in person should vote early at their municipal clerk’s office. If you choose this route, you will not have to fill out an absentee ballot request form.

Maryland

Register to vote by: Oct. 13 (or at the polls through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 26, though the state has not yet finalized locations
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed.
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote: Very easy

Maryland will mail absentee ballot applications to every voter this fall. You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your local board of elections by Oct. 13. If you have previously interacted with the Motor Vehicle Administration or a social services agency, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your early voting site, your local board of elections, or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online.

Massachusetts

Register to vote by: Oct. 24
Early in person voting: Oct. 17–30
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: If you don’t return your ballot early, you may not be able to fix a defect.
How easy is it to vote: Very easy

You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your local clerk’s office by Oct. 24. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. There is no same-day registration. Massachusetts law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch—or do not see a signature at all—they must send the voter a new ballot if there is sufficient time before the election. Individuals who vote absentee should therefore take care to submit their ballots as early as possible.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your local clerk’s office or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online.

Michigan

Register to vote by: Oct. 19, or at your local clerk’s office before Nov. 3, or at the polls on Election Day
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your local clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a photo ID or sign an affidavit attesting to your identity.)
Vote by mail: No excuse required
Notable hurdle: There are no early voting centers.
How easy is it to vote: Moderately easy

You must register to vote online or by mail by Oct. 19. You can also register to vote in person at your local clerk’s office until Election Day, then cast a ballot there. Finally, you can register at the polls on Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Michigan law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. It does not require them to notify voters whose ballots are voided for mismatch. However, in response to a lawsuit, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has provided guidance that allows voters to fix the defect before or after Election Day.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at their local clerk’s office or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online. You can also vote early in person at your local clerk’s office.

Minnesota

Register to vote by: Oct. 13, or at your county election office before Nov. 3, or at the polls on Election Day
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your county election office)
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse required
Notable hurdle: There are no early voting centers.
How easy is it to vote: Very easy

You must register to vote online or by mail by Oct. 13. You can also register to vote at your county election office, then cast a ballot. Some of these offices will provide additional in-person early voting sites where you can also register. Finally, you can register at the polls on Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Minnesota law only requires election officials to check the signature on an absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file if there is a discrepancy in other identifying information. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify the voter and provide an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county election office or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online.

Mississippi

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person voting: None, although voters who qualify can fill out their absentee ballot at their county circuit clerk’s office
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or an accredited Mississippi college.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, and fear of COVID-19 does not count
Notable hurdle: Absentee voters must get their ballot request and actual ballot notarized.
How easy is it to vote: Very difficult

You must register to vote by mail or in person with your county circuit clerk by Oct. 5. There is no same-day registration. Mississippi law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch—or do not see a signature at all—they will void the ballot without giving the voter an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote on Election Day because most residents have no other option. Voters who qualify to vote absentee should request an absentee ballot and drop it off with their county circuit clerk. If you choose to mail your ballot, you cannot track its progress online to ensure it is received. Both the absentee ballot request and the ballot itself must be notarized. If you qualify to vote absentee, you can also vote early in person at your county circuit clerk’s office; you must still notarize your absentee ballot request, and a clerk at the office will notarize your ballot.

Missouri

Register to vote by: Oct. 7
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your county clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or a Missouri school, or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document with your name and address.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, but all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: Your mail-in ballot must be notarized.
How easy is it to vote: Very difficult

You must register to vote online, by mail, or in person at your county clerk’s office by Oct. 7. There is no same-day registration. Missouri distinguishes between “absentee” ballots (which require an excuse) and “mail-in” ballots (which do not). All mail-in ballots must be notarized, and the notary service must be provided for free. Absentee ballots need not be notarized.

Slate’s recommendation: Request a mail-in ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county clerk’s office. If you choose to mail your ballot, you cannot track its progress online to ensure it is received. Voters who have an excuse not to vote in person on Election Day should request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at their county clerk’s office.

Montana

Register to vote by: Oct. 24 (or at a county election office or a late registration location through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: None
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document with your name and address.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Montana has no online voter registration.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at your county election office or a late registration location through Election Day.

Montana law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify the voter and allow them to fix the defect until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters should return absentee ballots well in advance of Nov. 3 to ensure they will have time to address a potential mismatch.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county election office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Nebraska

Register to vote by: Oct. 16
Early in-person voting: Oct. 5–Nov. 2
Voter ID law: None
Vote-by-mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

If you have previously interacted with the Nebraska DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. There is no same-day registration.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at the county election office. You can also vote early in person at this office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Nevada

Register to vote by: Oct. 29 online (or Oct. 6 by mail or in person, or at the polls through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Oct. 17–30
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

Nevada will mail absentee ballots to all active voters this fall. You must register to vote by Oct. 29 online or by Oct. 6 by mail, or in person at your county clerk and registrar of voters’ office. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Nevada law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify the voter and allow them to fix the defect within seven days.

Slate’s recommendation:  Fill out your ballot at home and drop it off at their local county clerk and registrar of voters’ office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

New Hampshire

Register to vote by: Oct. 21–28 (exact dates vary by municipality; registration can also be done in person on Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your local clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a photo ID or sign an affidavit to attest to your identity, then be photographed.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, but all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: Voters who lack ID must be photographed to vote, which critics decry as intimidation.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote by six to 13 days prior to the election (exact dates vary by municipality) in person at your town or city clerk’s office. You can also call this office to request to register by mail. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. New Hampshire law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. In 2018, a federal court ordered the state to notify voters and give them an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your town or city clerk’s office. You can also drop off your ballot at your assigned precinct polling place on Election Day, but we recommend returning it much farther in advance. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

New Jersey

Register to vote by: Oct. 13
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your county clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: There is no online voter registration
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

New Jersey plans to mail ballots to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote by Oct. 13 by mail or in person with a local election official. If you have previously interacted with the Motor Vehicle Commission, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. There is no same-day registration. New Jersey law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. A federal court ordered the state to give voters notice and an opportunity to cure mismatches during this year’s primary. The legislature is expected to pass legislation in the near future enshrining this process into state law.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out the absentee ballot at home and drop it off at a secure ballot drop box. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. You can also vote early in person with a local election official. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

New Mexico

Register to vote by: Oct. 6 (or in person at the county clerk’s office or an early voting location until Oct. 31)
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 6; dates and hours vary by county, but all county clerks will provide it on Oct. 31.
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

You must register to vote online or by mail by Oct. 6, or in person at your county clerk’s office until Oct. 31. If you have previously interacted with the Motor Vehicle Division, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. The state has approved same-day registration, but the law will not take effect until 2021.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county clerk’s office or your early voting site. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

New York

Register to vote by: Oct. 9
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 24, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: Excuse required, but all voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: The state has a long history of botching elections.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 9 online, by mail, or in person at your local elections office. The state’s voting laws are in flux as lawmakers scramble to finalize new, more accessible voting procedures due to COVID-19. New York badly botched its primary, disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters. While voting in the state may look easier than ever on paper, it is still difficult to ensure that your ballot gets counted. New York law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify the voter and give them an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county board of elections. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

North Carolina

Register to vote by: Oct. 9 (or in person until Oct. 31)
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 15, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (but suspended indefinitely under a federal court order)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Absentee ballots must be signed by a witness.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 9 online, by mail, or in person at your county board of elections. (Starting in September, voters will be able to request them online.) If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls until Oct. 31, but you must then vote in person. There is no same-day registration on Election Day itself. North Carolina law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. They are not required to notify voters whose ballots are voided for mismatch or give them an opportunity to fix a defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote early in-person due to the state’s stringent signature mismatch rule. Those who vote absentee should request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at the county board of elections or your early voting site. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

North Dakota

Register to vote by: You do not need to register to vote.
Early in-person voting: October (dates and times vary by county)
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or a certificate issued by a long-term care facility; if your ID lacks a residential address or date of birth, you must also show a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government-issued document.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: The state’s infamous voter ID law disenfranchised many tribal citizens, though the state has promised to ensure that Native people can vote this year.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

North Dakota will mail absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters. North Dakota law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. Under a court order, officials are required to notify voters whose ballots are voided for mismatch and give them an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off with a local election official or at a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Ohio

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person voting: October, but it varies by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government check.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Each county, no matter the size, can only set up one ballot drop box.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

Ohio plans to mail absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote by Oct. 5 online, by mail, or in person at a county board of elections, state agency, public library, or other government building. There is no same-day registration. Voters may cast a ballot at their county board of elections or a satellite location if their board establishes one. Voters may also drop off their absentee ballot at these boards. Ohio law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify you and give you an opportunity to fix the defect within seven days after the election.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at the county board of elections or a drop box, if available. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Oklahoma

Register to vote by: Oct. 9
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 29, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or a voter registration card, or sign an affidavit attesting to your identity and provide either your driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Normally, absentee ballots must be notarized, but because of the pandemic, voters instead submit a copy of an ID.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 9 online, by mail, or in person at your county election board, post office, public library, or other state agencies. There is no same-day registration. Absentee ballots must be notarized or returned with a copy of a valid ID.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county election board. You may also cast a ballot in person at your county election board on Oct. 29 or 30. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask your spouse to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Oregon

Register to vote by: Oct. 13
Early in-person voting: None
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: There is no traditional in-person voting.
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

Oregon plans to mail ballots to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote by Oct. 13 online, by mail, or in person at your county elections office. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. There is no same-day registration. Oregon law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify you and allow you to fix the defect within two weeks.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your absentee ballot at home and drop it off at a drop box near you. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Pennsylvania

Register to vote by: Oct. 19
Early in-person voting: None
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: There are no early voting centers.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 19 online, by mail, or in person at your county elections office. There is no same-day registration. Pennsylvania law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify you and allow you to prove your identity at a hearing.

Slate’s recommendation: Request a mail-in ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at a county election office. (The state distinguishes between “mail-in” ballots for those who prefer to vote by mail and “absentee” ballots for those who must vote by mail, but there is no functional difference.) If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Rhode Island

Register to vote by: Oct. 4 (or at the polls on Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your local board of canvassers Oct. 14–Nov. 2)
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID, or provide a signature that officials can match to the signature from their voter registration form.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Same-day voter registration only permits voting for the presidential and vice presidential elections.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

You must register to vote by Oct. 4 online, by mail, or in person at your local board of canvassers. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls in designated locations through Election Day, but you must then vote in person, and you can only vote for the president and vice president. Rhode Island law requires election officials to check absentee ballots for signature mismatch. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify you and allow you to fix the defect within seven days. Under a court settlement, the state has waived a requirement that compelled voters to notarize their absentee ballot or obtain the signatures of two witnesses.

Slate’s recommendation: Request a mail-in ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off with their local board of canvassers or at a drop box, if available. Beginning 20 days before the election, you may also cast an “emergency ballot” in person at your local board of canvassers. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties. Rhode Island offers limited in-person early voting.

South Carolina

Register to vote by: Oct. 4 online or in-person, or Oct. 5 by mail
Early in-person voting: Very limited (available at in-person absentee locations)
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or show a non-photo ID and sign an affidavit swearing that you could not obtain a valid photo ID.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, and fear of COVID-19 does not count
Notable hurdle: Absentee ballots require an excuse and typically require a witness.
How easy is it to vote here: Very difficult

You must register to vote online or in person at your county elections office by Oct. 4, or by mail by Oct. 5. There is no same-day registration. Typically, a witness must sign your absentee ballot; a federal judge suspended that requirement in May due to COVID-19. Given the federal judiciary’s hostility to voting rights, however, South Carolina residents have no guarantee that this decision will remain in effect through November.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote in person on Election Day because you have no other option. Voters who qualify should request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county elections office. Residents who qualify to vote absentee can also vote early in person at this office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

South Dakota

Register to vote by: Oct. 19
Early in-person voting: Very limited (available for absentee voting at your county auditor’s office)
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or a South Dakota school, or sign an affidavit attesting to your identity.)
Vote by mail: No excuse required
Notable hurdle: There is no online voter registration.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

South Dakota already mailed absentee ballot applications to all active voters. You must register to vote by Oct. 19 by mail or in person at your county auditor’s office, city finance office, driver’s license station, or other state agency. There is no same-day registration.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county auditor’s office. You can also vote early in person at this office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Tennessee

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person voting: Begins Oct. 14, but dates and times vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or sign an affidavit swearing that you are too poor to obtain one.)
Vote by mail: Those at high risk because of underlying medical conditions and their caretakers can cite COVID-19; others may not qualify.
Notable hurdle: You must cite an excuse to request an absentee ballot.
How easy is it to vote here: Very difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 5 online, by mail, or in person to your county election commission. There is no same-day registration. If a ballot administrator finds a signature does not match the one on file, the administrator can reject the ballot. You will be notified but will not have the opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote early in person. Voters who qualify should request an absentee ballot, return it by mail, and track its progress.

Texas

Register to vote by: Oct. 5
Early in-person voting: October (dates and times vary by county)
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or explain why you cannot obtain one and show supporting documents, such as a utility bill or bank statement.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, and fear of COVID-19 does not count
Notable hurdle: Voters cannot obtain absentee ballots without an excuse.
How easy is it to vote here: Very difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 5 by mail or in person at your local elections office. There is no same-day registration. Texas law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, some county clerks may notify you to allow you to fix the defect, but they are not required to.

Slate’s recommendation: Vote early in person. Voters who qualify should request an absentee ballot and return it by mail. If you request an absentee ballot and are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. 

Utah

Register to vote by: Oct. 23 (or in person through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at vote centers)
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a government-issued photo ID or two documents that prove your name and residence.)
Vote by mail: No excuse required
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately easy

Utah plans to mail ballots to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote by Oct. 23 online, by mail, or in person at your county clerk’s office. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Utah law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify you and give you an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your absentee ballot at home and drop it off at a drop box. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Vermont

Register to vote by: Nov. 3
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at the city or town clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

Vermont plans to mail absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote by Nov. 3 online, by mail, in person at your town clerk’s office, or at the polls. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already.

Slate’s recommendation: Request your absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at the town clerk’s office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask a family member or caretaker to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Virginia

Register to vote by: Oct. 13
Early in-person voting: Limited (absentee voting is available at your local election office)
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a photo ID or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document; you can also sign an affidavit attesting to your identity.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

You must register to vote by Oct. 13 online, by mail, or in person at a local registrar’s office, public library, armed forces recruitment office, DMV, or other state agency. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. Absentee ballots must typically be signed by a witness; however, the state waived this requirement for the primary and may do so again for the general election.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your local registrar’s office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties. Beginning Sept. 18, any resident can cast a ballot in person at their local registrar’s office.

Washington

Register to vote by: Oct. 26, or at the polls through Election Day
Early in-person voting: Oct. 16–Nov. 2, but dates and hours vary by location
Voter ID law: Lenient (At the polls, you must show a state, employer, or student ID card, or provide a signature that officials match to the signature from your voter registration form.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: None
How easy is it to vote here: Very easy

Washington plans to mail ballots to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote online or by mail Oct. 26 or in person at your county elections office by Election Day. If you have previously interacted with the Department of Licensing, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. You can also register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Washington law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must promptly notify you and give you an opportunity to fix the defect within 20 days.

Slate’s recommendation: Fill out your absentee ballot at home and drop it off at your county elections office or a drop box. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

West Virginia

Register to vote by: Oct. 13
Early in-person voting: Must begin by Oct. 21, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show some form of identification. Otherwise, another voter with a photo ID may sign an affidavit confirming your identity; if a poll worker has known you for at least six months, these requirements are waived.)
Vote by mail: Excuse required, but voters can cite fear of COVID-19
Notable hurdle: The state has an opaque signature mismatch procedure.
How easy is it to vote here: Very difficult

You must register to vote by Oct. 13 online, by mail, or in person at your county clerk’s office. If you have previously interacted with the DMV, the state has automatically registered you to vote already. West Virginia law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they are not required to notify voters whose ballots are voided for mismatch or give them an opportunity to fix the defect.

Slate’s recommendation: Voters who are not at a heightened risk for COVID-19 should vote early in-person. Other voters should request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county clerk’s office. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may ask another individual to do it for you. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties.

Wisconsin

Register to vote by: Oct. 14 online or by mail, Oct. 30 at your municipal clerk’s office, or at the polls through Election Day. 
Early in-person voting: Oct. 20–Nov. 1, but dates and hours vary by county
Voter ID law: Strict (At the polls, you must show a photo ID issued by the government or an accredited Wisconsin school.)
Vote by mail: No excuse needed
Notable hurdle: Absentee ballots must be signed by a witness.
How easy is it to vote: Moderately difficult

Wisconsin plans to mail absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters this fall. You must register to vote online or by mail by Oct. 14, or in person at your municipal clerk’s office by Oct. 30. If you do not register by the deadline, you can register at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person. Wisconsin law requires election officials to check the signature on each absentee ballot against the voter’s signature on file. If they detect a mismatch, they must notify the voter and allow them to fix the defect until the close of polls on Election Day. Absentee ballots must be signed by a witness.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your municipal clerk’s office or a drop box, if your county provides one. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual counties. The Wisconsin Elections Commission will urge clerks to use Intelligent Mail barcodes, allowing voters to track their ballots online. If your clerk does not use IMbs, you should call their office to check on the status of your ballot.

Wyoming

Register to vote by: Oct. 19 (or at your county clerk’s office through Election Day)
Early in-person voting: Limited (available at your county clerk’s office)
Voter ID law: None
Vote by mail: No excuse needed.
Notable hurdle: There are no early voting centers.
How easy is it to vote here: Moderately difficult

Wyoming has already mailed absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters. You must register to vote by Oct. 19 by mail (mail applications must be notarized) or in person at your county clerk’s office. If you do not register by the deadline, you can still register at your county clerk’s office, or at the polls through Election Day, but you must then vote in person.

Slate’s recommendation: Request an absentee ballot, fill it out at home, and drop it off at your county clerk’s office. You can also vote early in person at this office. If you choose to mail your ballot, you should contact your county clerk for information on the status of your ballot.

We’ve have not mentioned rules that require ballots to be postmarked by a certain date because ballots sent through USPS routinely arrive with an illegible postmark or with none at all. We also encourage voters to drop off their ballots if possible, the most dependable method of transportation. If you prefer to mail your ballot, we have explained how you can track your ballot to ensure it is received and counted. We have excluded which states pay for postage on ballots—in part because the laws here are changing fast but also because we suggest voters physically return their ballots. Limitations on who can vote, like felony disenfranchisement laws, are beyond the scope of this guide. 

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