How to Vote Absentee Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

Nicole Rojas
Mar 16, 2020 - 4:21

The remaining primaries in the race for the White House have been thrown into a frenzy amid growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The virus, which reached pandemic levels, has forced the closure of restaurants, sporting venues, schools and pushed people to work from home. 

Two states that have yet to primary announced last week that their presidential primaries will be postponed to later dates. Other states have announced measures to expand absentee voting.

The North Star has broken down when states need to head to the polls, what voters should know ahead of their primaries and how they can mail-in their ballots to vote absentee. 

Key Changes to Remaining Primary Dates

Louisiana became the first state to postpone its presidential primaries over fears of the coronavirus outbreak. On March 13, Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order that delayed the April 4 primary until June 20, The Associated Press reported. 

“The number of presumptive positive cases in our state is constantly increasing, and we want to make certain that we have maximum participation by all voters regardless of their age and health conditions,” Edwards said in a statement. “The majority of our poll workers are older Louisianans who are among the most vulnerable to this virus along with those who have chronic health conditions. It’s necessary that we take every precaution to protect the health and safety of our people, and this is a serious situation that demands serious action.” 

Georgia followed suit the next day when election officials announced that the state was postponing the March 24 presidential primary to May 19. In a statement, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said that the virus, which has reached worldwide pandemic status, had increased the risks to voters and poll workers.

All votes already cast in person and all absentee ballots will be counted, he added. Georgia voters who have not yet cast a ballot in person will be able to do so on May 19.  

“Given these circumstances, I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the Presidential Preference Primary, and the local elections associated with them, and resume in-person voting for those elections as part of the already scheduled May 19 General Primary,” Raffensperger said. 

On March 16, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced he was recommending the primary be moved until June 2. In a statement posted on Twitter, DeWine said that a lawsuit will be filed to postpone the election. “I believe when we look back on this, we’ll be happy we did this. The votes that have already been cast will still be counted – and this recommendation would allow others to vote in the future,” he wrote. 

How to Mail-In Your Vote 

  • Arizona: Voters in Arizona can sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) online by clicking here. Voters should note that they’ll need to complete a new voter registration form and a written request with their signature can also be sent to their County Recorder. For full information on ballots by mail in Arizona, click here. Arizona law also allows each County Board of Supervisors to designate voting locations as Emergency Voting Locations
  • Alaska: Any voter in Alaska can request a ballot by mail. Voters must apply beginning January 1 by filling out a PDF form and signing it. They can send in their application to the Absentee Office by mail, fax or email as an attached PDF, TIFF or JPEG file. Voters will receive their ballot, a return mail envelope and instructions to mail in their vote. More information available here. It is important to note that the state of Alaska does not run the party primaries and therefore does not control absentee ballots for the Democratic primary.
  • Connecticut: Connecticut has strict laws that regulate who can vote absentee. Absentee voting is restricted to active members of the armed forces, those who will be out of town during Election Day, those who are ill or have a physical disability, those who are prevented by their religious beliefs and those who are performing duties as an election official at a polling place other than their own. For full information, head here
  • Delaware: All registered voters in Delaware who are unable to vote in person on Election Day may be eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Voters wishing to request an absentee ballot must complete an “Affidavit for Absentee Ballot.” Information for Delaware voters, including the affidavit forms, is available here
  • District of Columbia: Eligible registered voters in Washington D.C. are allowed to vote by mail for any reason. Voters are recommended to use the Board of Elections’ online or printable form to request an absentee ballot, but any form of written and signed communication requesting an absentee ballot is accepted. Information is available here. Requests for absentee ballots must be received no later than the seventh day before an election. 
  • Florida: Florida voters head to the primary polls on March 17, with election officials encouraging voters to vote early or during off-peak hours between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Like other states, Florida allows any registered voter to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot online, in writing, in person or over the phone to the Supervisor of Elections. However, the deadline to request that ballot is limited to 5 p.m. on the 10th day before the election—meaning the deadline has passed. Those who have a vote-by-mail ballot should submit their voted ballot by 7 p.m. on Election Day.  
  • Georgia: Georgia is one of two states that have officially opted to postpone their primaries. Voters in the state are allowed to absentee vote by mail and in-person with no excuse needed. Georgia allows absentee by mail ballots to be requested up to 180 days before an election. All absentee voting information for Georgia voters is available here
  • Hawaii: Hawaii law rules that all elections in the state are conducted by mail, thus eliminating the need for polling places. Registered voters in Hawaii will automatically receive their ballot packet approximately 3 weeks before the election. Voters must fill out their ballot, sign it and return it to their Clerk’s Office. Ballots can be returned by mail or in-person. 
  • Illinois: Voters in Illinois head to the polls on March 17 despite the coronavirus outbreak. Voters in Chicago are urged to check the city’s Board of Elections website to locate their polling place, which may have changed, and to practice “social distancing” when voting, USA Today reported. The deadline to apply for absentee ballots have passed. All absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before March 17 for it to be counted. 
  • Indiana: Voters must submit an application for an absentee ballot and mail it to their local county election office. They can vote absentee in person beginning 28 days before an election day. Voters can begin filling out absentee ballot applications for the general election on May 19. 
  • Kansas: Kansas allows all voters to cast their ballots by mail or in-person prior to Election Day. Voters need to contact their county election officer to request an advance ballot application. Advance ballots, which are mailed to voters starting 20 days before the election, must be postmarked on or before Election Day. More information available here
  • Kentucky: Only eligible voters are allowed to cast an absentee ballot by mail or in the County Clerk’s office before Election Day in Kentucky. To qualify to vote by mail-in absentee ballot, Kentucky voters must be advanced in age, disabled or ill, in the military or a military dependent, an overseas citizen, a student residing outside the country, incarcerated but not convicted, prevented from voting in person because of their employment location or a voter who temporarily resides outside of Kentucky. Kentucky provides complete information about absentee voting here
  • Louisiana: Louisiana was the first state to postpone its primary. Louisianans who are not a military or overseas voter must have a reason to be eligible to vote by mail. All eligible reasons to apply for an absentee ballot are available here. General and disabled applicants must request their ballots by 4:30 p.m. CST on the fourth day before election day, while military, overseas or hospitalized applicants must request their ballots by 4:30 p.m. CST on the day before election day. 
  • Maryland: Maryland allows any registered voter to apply for an absentee ballot. Voters must request their blank ballot by April 21 if they want to receive their ballot by mail or fax and by April 24 if they want to download their ballot from the State’s website. Those who hand deliver their request may be able to pick up their absentee ballot. Those ballots can be submitted by mail or dropped off at the local board office. Additional information available here
  • Montana: Any registered voter in Montana is allowed to vote by absentee ballot. Voters must fill out an application for an absentee ballot and mail it or drop it off at the county election office. The applications must be received by the county election office by noon the day before the election. Absentee ballots must be submitted by 8 p.m. on election day. 
  • Nebraska: Nebraska is a “no-excuse” state, which means any registered voter can request to receive an absentee ballot. Voters must contact their county election office in person, by mail or by fax to apply for an early-voting ballot. Applications must be received by 6 p.m. on the second Friday preceding the election. Additional information is available here
  • New Jersey: Voters in New Jersey must submit an application to their County Clerk seven days prior to an election to receive their ballot by mail. They can also apply in person to the County Clerk until 3 p.m. the day before the election. Applications by county are available here
  • New Mexico: Any registered voter in New Mexico is able to apply for an absent voter ballot from their County Clerk’s Office. Those applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on May 28 in time for the primary election and by October 30 for the general election. Ballots must be submitted to the county clerk or a voter’s precinct by 7 p.m. on election day to be counted. 
  • New York: New York voters are allowed to apply for absentee ballot if they are absent from their county on election day, unable to appear at the polls due to a temporary or permanent illness or disability, a primary caregiver for a person who is ill or physically disabled, a resident or patient of a Veterans Health Administration Hospital or detained in jail swaying Grand Jury action. Those applications must be sent in no later than the seventh day before an election or delivered in person no later than the day before the election. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all New Yorkers would be allowed to vote absentee for the Queens Borough President special election on March 24 and that the deadline to vote absentee was extended to March 23. No word if all New Yorkers will be able to vote absentee for the primary. 
  • Pennsylvania: Voters in Pennsylvania must submit their absentee and mail-in ballot applications for the primary election by 5 p.m. on April 21. There are two options for mail ballots: absentee ballot if you will be out of the municipality on election day or if you have a disability or illness or a mail-in ballot for any other reason. Only registered voters can request either ballot type. More information available here
  • Ohio: Ohio may become the third state to move its primary date. Registered voters in Ohio can request an absentee ballot up to three days before the election day. Mail-in absentee voting will continue until the new possible election day, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Ohio’s governor also ordered 88 local boards of elections to offer curbside voting. 
  • Oregon: Like Hawaii, Oregon has adopted a vote-by-mail election. Registered voters automatically receive a ballot two to three weeks before an election. All ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election day. 
  • Rhode Island: Rhode Island allows registered voters who are incapacitated due to illness, mental or physical disability, who are confined to a hospital, convalescent home, nursing home or similar institutions, who are part of the military, a military dependent or living abroad and those who cannot vote at their polling place on election day can apply for an absentee ballot. All ballots must be received by the State Board of Elections by 8 p.m. on election day. More information available here
  • South Dakota: Registered voters in South Dakota who are unable to attend their polling place in person on election day can apply for an absentee ballot application. Applications must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on the day before the election. Additional information about absentee voting in South Dakota can be viewed here
  • West Virginia: Only certain registered voters are eligible to receive and vote an absentee ballot by mail in West Virginia. All eligibility requirements and qualifications for absentee voting can be viewed here. All absentee ballot applications must be sent to the county clerk’s office by the sixth day before the election. 
  • Wisconsin: Registered voters in Wisconsin must verify they are registered online to request a ballot. Voters can begin the process online here
  • Wyoming: Only qualified electors can apply for an absentee ballot at any time during a calendar year in which an election is held. Voters must contact their Wyoming County Clerk to request an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots can be submitted in person or by mail and must be received by the county clerk no later than 7 p.m. on election day. 

Coronavirus 411

Coronavirus, officially named SARS-CoV-2 but also known as COVID-19, is a novel virus that causes a number of respiratory illnesses, including lung lesions and pneumonia. The virus spreads easily from person to person through the air when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. 

COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to some 136 countries. More than 174,000 people around the world have become infected and nearly 7,000 people have died. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. President Donald Trump declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency on March 13. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 can take between two to 14 days to appear. The CDC recommends calling your doctor if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. If you also experience persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face, seek medical attention immediately. 

In order to keep yourself and others safe, be sure to wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and avoid touching your face. The CDC is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks. Click here for information on how to prepare for a quarantine. 

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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