Once you have registered to vote, you don’t have to wait until Election Day to cast your ballot. While you can of course vote on Election Day in every state, many states also allow voting during the weeks leading up to Election Day—this process is known as “early voting.”
Most states offer some form of early voting. This year many states have expanded early voting options to accommodate the effects of the pandemic.
There are two main types of early voting: in-person early voting and early absentee voting. With millions of people planning to vote absentee for the first time, understanding the simple difference between the two types of early voting is extremely important.
Here are the key differences:
1. In-person early voting
In-person early voting allows you to go cast your vote in person the same way you would on Election Day—just early! You simply go to a designated early voting location during its operating hours and vote. However, when and where you can vote early in-person varies by state. In some states, you can vote as early as 45 days before the election or as late as the weekend before. In most states, early voting ends a few days before Election Day. Be sure to check when your state offers early voting, mark your calendar and make your plan to vote. Ask yourself when and where will you vote? Decide this now so you have plenty of time to execute your plan.
2. Early absentee voting.
There are two different forms of early absentee voting: mail and in-person. We will focus on the latter. In-person early absentee voting allows you to bypass the mail process and go directly to a designated election location to receive and cast your absentee—or mail—ballot (reminder that “absentee” and “mail-in” voting are used interchangeably). After checking in with an election worker, you will then be handed a paper ballot—the same ballot you would have received if you were casting it by mail. Then, all you will need to do is fill out the ballot and hand it in. In-person absentee voting gives voters the option to vote early in states that don’t traditionally offer early vote options. For example, Pennsylvania does not have early voting, but the state allows voters to come in to county elections offices a month and a half before Election Day and request and submit an absentee ballot.
Voting early is a great option for voters in 2020 who are worried about voting by 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 simply want to cast their vote early. Whether your state offers in-person early voting or early absentee voting, make sure to look up available locations, take note of hours of operation and make your voting plan.