Early voting

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Early voting is the process which voters can cast their vote on a single or series of days prior to an election. Early voting can take place remotely, such as by mail, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary based on jurisdiction and type of election. The goal of early voting is usually to increase participation and relieve congestion of polling stations on Election Day.

An advance poll (also "advance voting") is held in some elections to allow participation by voters who may not be able to vote on the set election day(s). This may include people who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, among others.

Early voting and election integrity

Early voting is widely touted as a convenience, but it represents a threat to election integrity:

  • early votes can be more easily altered than election day votes because of ballot chain-of-custody issues (ballots must be safeguarded for a longer time before they are counted)
  • early voting results might be leaked thereby allowing candidates who obtain this data to alter strategies and resource allocation.
  • Early voting also undermines Election Day election verification techniques such as exit polling.

United States

Early voting is similar to "no-excuse" absentee voting. In many U.S. states the period varies between four and fifty days prior to Election Day. Early voting in person is allowed with no excuse required in 31 U.S. states, with an excuse in 3, and not at all in 16. Absentee voting by mail is allowed in 28 states, with an excuse in 22. No-excuse permanent absentee voting is allowed in 4 states. The District of Columbia requires an excuse for both early voting and absentee voting.[1]

22 percent of voters cast an early presidential ballot in 2004. In 2000, 16 percent voted early.[2]


Began early voting in 2004 as part of post-2000 election "reform"

Turnout for early voting exceeded one million in 2004. There were some problems: 1st-day computer failures in Orange County and Broward County; accidentally-erased votes in Volusia County; and a lack of early voting sites in Jacksonville. Reforms are being discussed to address the known issues, as well as possibly eliminating the standard poll in favor of modified early voting.


In August 2006, a judge ruled in favor of several plaintiffs that the state constitution only permitted voting on the day of the election. The plaintiffs were challenging a new early-voting law on the probability of fraud. Absentee ballots appear to remain acceptable for the time being.

Other states

The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College provides up-to-date tables of summary and detailed outlines of each state's laws, as well as links to the relevant Codes and Statutes.[1]

Early voting internationally

In Australia, early voting is known as pre poll voting. However, to cast an early vote you must already be registered.

In Canada, early voting is known as advance polling. It is offered to all voters in all federal, provincial, and most municipal elections. In federal elections, voters do not need to be registered in order to vote at an advance poll provided they are carrying proof of identity and address, or bring a registered voter who will swear an oath of identification at the polling station on their behalf.

In New Zealand, early voting is a form of special voting, which allows voters who will be outside their electorate or incapacitated on election day to vote in advance or at another polling place.

Sweden has traditionally a high participation in elections, and tries to make it as easy as possible to vote. No registration is needed since everyone is registered with a home address. Normally a voter should vote on the election day in their specified polling station. But everyone can vote during the last week at an early polling station, anywhere in the country. These places are usually municipality owned places like libraries. Also on the election day some of them are open, even though the election day always is a Sunday. In hospitals and homes for elderly there special voting opportunities. In elections until year 1998, post offices were used for several decades as early voting stations. Swedes living abroad must register their address and can vote at embassies or through mail.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 States - Absentee and Early Voting Laws. The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College.
  2. "A third of electorate could vote before Nov. 4". By Stephen Ohlemacher and Julie Pace. Sep 21, 2008. Associated Press. Article copies: [1].

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