How To Vote If You're Away On Election Day

The 2016 election is important, and I hope all Americans will exercise their constitutional right to cast their ballot not only for president, but also for the dozens of important gubernatorial, congressional, and local seats that are up for grabs. Nov. 8 is coming fast, but sometimes, life gets in the way and you may need to know how to vote if you’re out of town on Election Day. Because yes, it is possible. It just takes some planning ahead of time, and usually an absentee ballot.

First things first, according to RockTheVote, you can’t request an absentee ballot unless you’re registered to vote in the first place. There’s a handy registration checker on their website — pop in your information and make sure that you’re registered to vote. Deadlines and requirements for voter registration vary by state, so make sure you look at where you live for the proper information. If you’re already registered to vote and will not be around on Election Day to head to the polls, you need to request an absentee ballot. According to, absentee voting rules change by state, but “all states will mail a ballot to voters if certain conditions are met.” Ballots can be returned to the district or county in which you are voting by mail or in person, but as with everything else having to do with voting, rules and dates vary by state.

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images reports that some states, like Alabama, Delaware, Indiana, and Kentucky, require voters to give a reason as to why they cannot vote in person on Election Day. The others allow anyone who is registered to vote via absentee ballot. The gist is this: You request the ballot as the rules pertain to your state, it gets mailed to you, you fill it out, and you send or give it back by the date your state mandates. It’s pretty simple, but most states require you to request it well before Election Day, so it requires just a bit of thinking ahead.

Here are some other good things to know. If you’re a student and registered to vote in the place where you are going to school, you don’t have to send in an absentee ballot. According to RockTheVote, “If you receive mail in a Post Office box you can sign an affidavit (or, in some cases, get a letter from your college’s Residential Life office) asserting that you live at your dorm address.” If you're not registered at school but at home, you'll have to go the absentee route. If you are living abroad or in the Armed Forces, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program — they specialize in helping those overseas get registered and cast their ballots.

Voting is important, so make sure you’re registered and ready to go no matter where you'll be on Nov. 8.