The Expansion of Voting Before Election Day, 2000–2024

March 2024 9 min read
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Watch the Webinar: NPR Correspondent Miles Parks joined CEIR’s Executive Director David Becker and Research Director Chris Mann to discuss the key points and takeaways from this report.


Research by: Kyle Yoder, April Tan, & Stefan Martinez-Ruiz

Overview

The last two decades have seen a large expansion in the number of states offering options to vote before election day, from 24 states in 2000 to 46 states in 2024. Put another way: In the 2000 general election, 40% of all voting-age citizens lived in states that offered at least one option for voting before election day—such as early in-person voting or mail ballots. As of this writing, nearly 97% of all voting-age citizens will live in states that will offer at least one option to vote before election day in the 2024 election.

The map below shows the options to vote early in-person and by mail in each state and Washington, D.C., in each presidential election since 2000.

Options to Vote Before Election Day, 2000-2024

 

In the 2000 general election, 24 states offered all voters the opportunity to vote early in person; 21 of these states also offered all voters the option to vote by mail without needing to cite an eligible reason. These 24 states accounted for 40% of the citizen voting age population in 2000. In the upcoming 2024 general election, 46 states and Washington, D.C., will offer all voters the opportunity to vote early in person; 36 states and Washington, D.C., will also offer all voters the option to vote by mail without the need to cite a reason. These 46 states account for nearly 97% of the current citizen voting age population.

Defining Terms. This report uses the term “early in-person voting” to refer to voting that is available to all voters and conducted in person before the day of the election. This includes policies referred to by states as early voting, in-person no-excuse absentee voting, and advanced voting. Similarly, this report uses the term “mail voting” to refer to voting where all voters are eligible to receive their ballot via mail, including policies referred to by states as all-mail voting and no-excuse absentee by mail.

While the details of voting before election day vary by state, the availability of options to vote before election day has expanded across the nation since the 2000 general election. In each period between each presidential election from 2000 to 2024, more states enacted new laws or built on existing policies to drive this expansion. More details regarding individual states and policy changes between each election may be found in the full report at the link above.

Benefits of Expanding Options to Vote Before Election Day

Options to vote before election day bolster election integrity and provide eligible voters more opportunity to cast a ballot. When most voters cast their ballot on election day, any problem can have an outsized effect. A simple technical problem on election day may lead to a loss of voter confidence or even disenfranchisement. Any disinformation spread on election day could affect voters in ways that are difficult to correct by the time the polls close. By contrast, when voting is spread out over several days, election officials can detect issues earlier, mitigate challenges more easily, and offer a greater number of options to any voters who may be impacted. Disinformation can be mitigated, enabling voters to vote another day. Voters can also decide to vote at another time if issues lead to long lines, closed polling places, or similar problems. Put simply, research has demonstrated that more options to vote before election day mean more opportunities to identify and counteract any human error, machine breakdown, power outage, cyberattack, rumor campaign, or other potential issue that may arise.[1]

Early in-person and mail voting options are also widely popular across states in every region and of every partisan stripe. State legislatures and governors from both major parties have passed legislation creating and expanding options to vote before election day over several decades, and research repeatedly affirms that such policies do not advantage one party more than the other.[2] What’s more, options to vote early in-person and by mail have grown in popularity among voters nationwide over time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of ballots cast before election day increased steadily from 2000 to 2022. In 2000, 14% of ballots were cast before election day. Voting before election day rose to 21% of ballots cast in 2004, 31% in 2008, 33% in 2012, and 40% in 2016—then jumped to 69% during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, before returning to the long-term trend with 50% of ballots cast before election day in 2022.[3] This trend toward increasing numbers of ballots cast before election day is expected to continue with the 2024 general election, although probably not (yet) repeating the peak seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How CEIR Measured Growth in States with Option to Vote Before Election Day

To trace the expansion of options to vote before election day nationwide since the 2000 general election, the CEIR research team reviewed the enacting or extant legislation and legislative history for relevant voting methods—such as early voting and mail voting—in each state. This data was then cross-referenced with state government sources, news articles, other research publications, and policy survey responses from Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) reports published by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

This report focuses on the voter experience for each presidential year general election. Where the impacts of a given law on voter experience were obscure or ambiguous, the research team relied on the interpretation of state election officials. For the 2020 general election, this report categorizes states according to the options available to voters on November 3, 2020, including temporary expansions during the COVID-19 emergency. In February 2024, a trial judge in the Delaware Superior Court declared the state’s early voting law to be in violation of the state constitution.[4] This report reflects this change, though this decision may be subject to appeal before the 2024 general election.

All information in this report regarding the 2024 general election is current as of February 26, 2024, and may be subject to change in response to legislation, litigation, or other developments as the election approaches. Voters should visit vote.gov or ask their local election officials to confirm dates, locations, and procedures for early in-person and mail voting in their area.

This report expands upon CEIR’s previous work on voting before election day: Voting Before Election Day (October 2022) and How Easy Is It to Vote Early in Your State? (April 2021). We are grateful for the inquiry from Miles Parks, a journalist from National Public Radio, about past availability of options to vote before election day that prompted us to undertake this research on the policy trend over time.

Additional Resources and Citations

Additional information and perspectives on this topic are available at the following resources:

  • The Pew Charitable Trusts, “Non-Precinct Place Voting,” https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/0001/01/01/nonprecinct-place-voting.
  • MIT Election Data and Science Lab, “How We Voted in 2022: A Topical Look at the Survey of the Performance of American Elections,” https://electionlab.mit.edu/sites/default/files/2023-05/How-We-Voted-In-2022.pdf.

[1] Menella v. Albence., C. A. S23C-03-014 MHC (Del. Super. Ct. 2024).

[2] Patrick Howell O’Neill, “Why More, Earlier Voting Means Greater Election Security-Not Less,” MIT Technology Review, December 14, 2020, https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/10/1013584/expanding-voting-access-improves-election-security/.

[3] Research repeatedly shows that the availability of options to vote before election day do not confer a consistent advantage to either party, despite partisan rhetoric attempting to shape voter choices about different voting methods. For more, see Paul Gronke, Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum, Peter A. Miller, and Daniel Toffey, “Convenience Voting,” The Annual Review of Political Science 11 (June 2008): 437-455, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053006.190912; Daniel M. Thompson, Jennifer A. Wu, Jesse Yoder, and Andrew B. Hall, “Universal vote-by-mail has no impact on partisan turnout or vote share,” PNAS 117, no. 25 (June 2020): 14052-14056, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2007249117; Jesse Yoder, Cassandra Handan-Nader, Andrew Myers, Tobias Nowacki, Daniel M. Thompson, Jennifer A Wu., Chenoa Yorgason, and Andrew B. Hall, “How did absentee voting affect the 2020 U.S. election?” Science Advances 7, no. 52 (December 2021), https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abk1755; Paul S. Herrnson and Charles Stewart, III, “The Impact of COVID-19, Election Policies, and Partisanship on Voter Participation in the 2020 U.S. Election,” Election Law Journal 22, no. 2 (June 2023), https://doi.org/10.1089/elj.2022.0074.

[4] Charles Stewart, III, “How We Voted in 2022: A Topical Look at the Survey of the Performance of American Elections,” MIT Election Data and Science Lab, May 23, 2023, https://electionlab.mit.edu/sites/default/files/2023-05/How-We-Voted-In-2022.pdf.

In-Person Early Voting (Enacting or Extant Legislation) Mail Voting (Enacting or Extant Legislation)
Alabama 820-2-3-0.6-0.4ER Absentee Voting During State of Emergency-General Election 2020 (https://www.sos.alabama.gov/sites/default/files/proposedRules/820-2-3-.06-.04ER.pdf) 820-2-3-0.6-0.4ER Absentee Voting During State of Emergency-General Election 2020 (https://www.sos.alabama.gov/sites/default/files/proposedRules/820-2-3-.06-.04ER.pdf)
Alaska 1995 AK. HB 211; 1999 AK. HB 163 1995 AK. HB 211; 1999 AK. HB 163
Arizona 1991 Ariz. SB 1320 1991 Ariz. SB 1320
Arkansas 1995 Ark. HB 1648;
EO 20-44 (https://web.archive.org/web/20200810221345/https://governor.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/executiveOrders/EO_20-44.pdf)
1995 Ark. HB 1648;
EO 20-44 (https://web.archive.org/web/20200810221345/https://governor.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/executiveOrders/EO_20-44.pdf)
California 1978 Cal AB 1699; 2016 Cal SB 450 1978 Cal AB 1699; 2020 Cal AB 860; 2021 Cal AB 37
Colorado 1992 Colo. HB 92-1004 (https://lawcollections.colorado.edu/colorado-session-laws/islandora/object/session%3A22955);
1993 Colo. H.B. 93-1255(https://lawcollections.colorado.edu/colorado-session-laws/islandora/object/session%3A30704)
1992 Colo. HB 92-1004 (https://lawcollections.colorado.edu/colorado-session-laws/islandora/object/session%3A22955);
2013 Colo. HB 1303
Connecticut 2020 Ct. HB 6002; 2023 Ct. H.B. 5004 2020 Ct. HB 6002
Delaware 2019 Del. HB 346 (In 2020, The Office of the State Election Commissioner stated that, in practice, absentee voting was expanded to allow for a no-excuse in-person option as well as a by mail option.);
2019 Del. HB 38;
On February 23, 2024, the Delaware Superior Court declared that early voting as provided under this legislation was in violation of the state constitution (Mennella v. Albence).
2019 DE HB 346
District of Columbia 56 D.C. REG. 9169 56 D.C. REG. 9169;
D.C. Board of Elections 2020 Election Page (https://web.archive.org/web/20201007175641/https://www.dcboe.org/);
69 D.C. Reg. 14609
Florida 2001 Fla. SB 1118; 2004 Fla. SB 2346 2001 Fla. SB 1118
Georgia 2003 Ga. SB 258 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20032004/31117) 2005 Ga. HB 244
Hawaii 1993 Hi. HB 620; 2019 Hi. HB 1248 1993 Hi. HB 620; 2019 Hi. HB 1248
Idaho 1970 Idaho Sess. Laws 140 §§ 162 & 167 (https://legislature.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sessionlaws/sessionlaws_1970.pdf);
2013 Ida. HB 107
1970 Idaho Sess. Laws 140 §§ 162 and 166 (https://legislature.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sessionlaws/sessionlaws_1970.pdf)
Illinois 2005 ILL. HB 1968 2009 ILL. SB 2022
Indiana 2002 Ind. HEA 1101 N/A
Iowa 1990 Ia. HF 2329 1990 Ia. HF 2329
Kansas 1995 Kan. SB 232 1995 Kan. SB 232
Kentucky Executive Order 2020-688 (https://www.sos.ky.gov/elections/Documents/2020GeneralElection/EO-GeneralElection.pdf);
2021 Ky. HB 574
Executive Order 2020-688 (https://www.sos.ky.gov/elections/Documents/2020GeneralElection/EO-GeneralElection.pdf)
Louisiana 2005 La. HB 336 N/A
Maine PL 1999, c. 645, Sec. 4 (https://legislature.maine.gov/ros/LOM/LOM119th/3Pub601-650/3Pub601-650-44.htm#P1355_293246) PL 1999, c. 645, Sec. 4 (https://legislature.maine.gov/ros/LOM/LOM119th/3Pub601-650/3Pub601-650-44.htm#P1355_293246)
Maryland 2005 Md. HB 622; 2009 Md. HB 1179 2005 Md. HB 622
Massachusetts 2013 Mass. HB 3788 2019 Mass. HB 4820; 2022 Mass. SB 2924
Michigan Amendment: 2018 Initiative Petition 3; 2017 Mi. SB 1238;
Ballot Proposal 22-2; 2023 Mi. SB 367
Amendment: 2018 Initiative Petition 3; 2017 Mi. SB 1238
Minnesota 2013 Minn. H.F. No. 894 2013 Minn. H.F. No. 894
Mississippi N/A N/A
Missouri 2020 Mo. SB 631; 2022 Mo. HB 1878 2020 Mo. SB 631
Montana 1999 Mt. SB 140 1999 Mt. SB 140
Nebraska 1999 Neb. LB 571 1999 Neb. LB 571
Nevada 1991 Nev. AB 652; 1993 Nev. SB 250 1991 Nev. AB 652; 2020 Nev. AB 4B; 2021 Nev. AB 321
New Hampshire 2019 N.H. HB 1266 2019 N.H. HB 1266
New Jersey 2004 N.J. AN 35; 2020 N.J. SN 3203 2004 N.J. AN 35; Executive Order No. 77 (https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-177.pdf); 2020 N.J. AB 4475
New Mexico 1993 N.M. SB 51; 2005 N.M. SB 678 1993 N.M. SB 51
New York 2019 N.Y. AB 10833; 2019 N.Y. SB 1102 2019 N.Y. AB 10833; 2023 N.Y. SB 7394
North Carolina 1999 N.C. SB 568; 2001 N.C. HB 977 1999 N.C. SB 568
North Dakota 1997 N.D. SB 2151; 2003 N.D. SB 2248 1997 N.D. SB 2151
Ohio 2005 Ohio HB 234 2005 Ohio HB 234
Oklahoma 1992 OK. SB 653 1992 OK. SB 653
Oregon 1993 Ore. HB 2280 Oregon Measure 60, Vote by Mail for Biennial Elections Initiative (1998); 1999 Ore. SB 369
Pennsylvania 2019 Pa. SB 421 2019 Pa. SB 421
Rhode Island 2011 R.I. HB 5748; 2020 R.I. HB 8102; 2022 R.I. SB 2007 2011 R.I. HB 5748
South Carolina 2019 S.C. HB 5305; 2021 S.C. SB 108 2019 S.C. HB 5305
South Dakota 2003 S.D. HB 1176 2003 S.D. HB 1176
Tennessee 1993 Tenn. SB 2556 N/A
Texas 1987 Tex. HB 612 (https://lrl.texas.gov/LASDOCS/70R/HB612/HB612_70R.pdf#page=240);
1991 Tex. SB 1234
N/A
Utah 2004 Ut. HB 9; 2006 Ut. HB 15 2004 Ut. HB 9; 2020 UT H.B. 36
Vermont 1993 Vt. H. 191 1993 Vt. H. 191;
2020 Vt. SB 348; First Statewide Elections Directive (https://web.archive.org/web/20201017084039/https://sos.vermont.gov/media/hxgjjdkb/secretary-of-state-s-first-2020-statewide-election-procedures-directive.pdf);
2021 Vt. S. 15
Virginia 2020 Va. HB 1 2020 Va. HB 1
Washington 1974 ex.s. c 35 § 1 (https://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/documents/sessionlaw/1974ex1c35.pdf);
2011 Wa. SB 5124
1974 ex.s. c 35 § 1 (https://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/documents/sessionlaw/1974ex1c35.pdf);
2011 Wa. SB 5124
West Virginia 2001 W.V. HB 3066; 2003 W.V. SB 648 2020 General Election FAQ (https://web.archive.org/web/20201031124402/https://sos.wv.gov/FormSearch/Elections/Voter/FAQ-2020GeneralElection.pdf)
Wisconsin 1999 Wis. AB 700 1999 Wis. AB 700
Wyoming 1991 Wy. SF 118 1991 Wy. SF 118

 

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