Can I Vote Early? In These States, You Can Already Head To The Polls
The election might not be until Nov. 8, but you can get your civic duty out of the way if you've already decided on a candidate — and if you live in one of the states that offers early voting. In some places you vote by mail; others have in-person early voting sites. The requirements and process can differ quite a bit, so if you're wondering, "Can I vote early?" Check to see if you're registered in one of these states: about two-thirds of all states offer early voting, including several important swing states.
The biggest swing states offering early voting are Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio. The way it works changes from state to state. In North Carolina there are early vote centers you can vote at. In Iowa, you can vote early by requesting an absentee ballot in person. Finally, a few, like Colorado, sends every voter a ballot that they can return by mail at their convenience. Even among the states without early voting, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, voters can cast ballots by absentee but they need some sort of excuse to do so.
Therefore the key is following the instructions for your state. Visit RockTheVote.com if an absentee ballot is the best way for you to vote early. If you want to locate an early voting center, the best place to find the information is on your local election official's website. To find the link, Google your city, county, state, and "election official." Another good resource is Vote.org. They, in addition to helping you find contact info, have compiled a list of when early voting begins in each state.
According to The Economist, 42 million ballots were cast before election day in 2012, so you'll be in good company. That is up an astounding amount since 1992. Back then about 7 percent of votes were mailed in, whereas now the number is more or less a third.
The Clinton campaign, in particular, is hoping that her supporters do just this. They've been working with Latino churches to help drive voters to early voting sites in an attempt to up their participation to the levels of white and black voters, who historically vote at much higher rates. Early voting is a way for the campaigns to ensure someone does in fact vote while keeping their get-out-the-vote efforts on and leading up to Election Day as efficient as possible.
The idea that this model voting helps Democrats is pointed to as a reason why in North Carolina there was an attempt to cut back early voting. The reductions were rolled into a voter ID law that was unanimously struck down by a federal appeals court in July. The presiding judge Diana Gribbon Motz pointed to the law as a way to suppress minority turnout. "The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision" and "impose cures for problems that did not exist," the judge wrote.
Thanks to that ruling, North Carolina remains one of the states you can head to the polls before November. If early voting makes participating in this year's election, give it some consideration.