Is Your State Prepared for Voting by Mail in November?

Vote by mail ballot
Castleski / Shutterstock.com

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., state governments have been making plans for safely and securely voting remotely in this fall’s elections.

For some states, voting by mail is the normal way elections are done — business as usual. Others have wrestled with the idea of the pandemic being a valid reason to request an absentee ballot.

A new study from the Brookings Institution takes a state-by-state look at America’s evolving mail-in voting policies and gives every state a score and a grade for how prepared they are for voting in a pandemic.

While a handful of states currently score an A, C is the most common grade — and one state earned a big, fat F. Read on to see how your state fared.

Washington

Olympia, Washington
Real Window Creative / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 22 out of 22 points

Washington is one of only three states that received a perfect score in the category of universal vote-by-mail, which the Brookings Institute based on whether voters automatically receive a ballot (worth up to 10 points) and whether the state offered universal vote-by-mail for the 2016 election (worth up to 3 points).

Colorado

Colorado Capitol
Christopher Boswell / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 19 out of 22 points

Along with Washington and the next state on this list, Colorado is one of only three states that received a perfect score in the category of universal vote-by-mail. Colorado voters automatically receive a ballot, and the state offered universal vote-by-mail in 2016.

Oregon

Salem, Oregon
James Curzio / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 19 out of 22 points

Like Washington and Colorado, the state of Oregon received a perfect score in the category of universal vote-by-mail. Passage of a citizens initiative in 1998 made Oregon the first state to conduct its elections exclusively by mail.

Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah
Rigucci / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 19 out of 22 points

Like the previously mentioned states, Utah automatically provides for universal vote-by-mail by sending all voters a ballot. Utah sits in a four-way tie of states scoring 19 points for their level of preparedness.

Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 19 out of 22 points

Like Washington state, Washington, D.C., will provide all voters with a ballot to mail in or drop off by Election Day — but it didn’t do so in 2016.

California

California legislature
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 18 out of 22 points

California will offer universal vote-by-mail this year, but like Washington, D.C., it did not in 2016.

Such states may be less prepared to handle mail-in voting on a large scale than states that have a tradition of doing so.

Nevada

Nevada legislature
James Pintar / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 18 out of 22 points

Nevada will offer universal vote-by-mail this year, getting full credit on the single-most-valuable criteria in Brookings’ scoring.

Hawaii

Hawaii Legislature
Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

Grade: A

Score: 16 out of 22 points

Hawaii is the last state on the list to receive an A grade thanks to its universal vote-by-mail policy. However, it didn’t get any points in the “submitting a mail ballot category,” which were granted for states that accept ballots based on their postmark date.

Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 15 out of 22 points

Maryland this fall will automatically send all registered voters an application to receive a ballot for absentee voting, a move that’s worth 5 points on the Brookings scorecard. This involves an extra step for voters that residents in states with universal mail-in voting don’t have to deal with.

Ohio

Ohio flag capitol
Coral Sand and Assoc / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 15 out of 22 points

Ohio sits in a three-way tie of states scoring 15 points. The biggest chunk of that comes from all registered Ohio voters automatically receiving an application for absentee voting.

Vermont

Vermont legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 15 out of 22 points

Like Ohio and Maryland, Vermont scored 15 points. But those points come from different categories, as Vermont will offer universal vote-by-mail, providing each registered voter with a ballot.

Illinois

Springfield, Illinois
Donald Walker / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 14 out of 22 points

All registered voters in Illinois will automatically receive an application for an absentee ballot this fall.

For those counting, Illinois ranks 12th on this list and is the only state to score 14 points.

Iowa

Iowa Capitol
Christopher Boswell / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 13 out of 22 points

All registered voters in Iowa will automatically receive an application for absentee voting. In the Hawkeye state, ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within five days of it will be accepted.

Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 13 out of 22 points

All registered voters in Massachusetts will automatically receive an application for absentee voting, and ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within five days of it will be accepted.

Delaware

Delaware legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 12 out of 22 points

All registered voters in Delaware will automatically receive an application for absentee voting, and mailed ballots do not require a witness signature.

Michigan

Michigan legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 12 out of 22 points

All registered voters in Michigan will automatically receive an application for absentee voting, and mailed ballots don’t require a witness signature.

Minnesota

Minnesota legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 11 out of 22 points

Minnesota will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any registered voter can request an application for an absentee ballot without providing a reason. Ballots are accepted if postmarked by Election Day, even if they are received more than five days after the election.

Nebraska

Nebraska legislature
Charles G. Haacker / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 11 out of 22 points

Nebraska will also offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any registered voter can request an application for an absentee ballot without providing a reason. No witness signature is required on mailed ballots in Nebraska.

North Dakota

Bismarck, North Dakota
Ace Diamond / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 11 out of 22 points

In North Dakota, any registered voter can get an application for absentee voting without providing an excuse. Mailed ballots are accepted if postmarked by Election Day, even if they are received more than five days after the election.

West Virginia

West Virginia
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 11 out of 22 points

In West Virginia, any registered voter can get an application for absentee voting without providing an excuse. Mailed ballots don’t require a witness signature, and they are accepted if postmarked by Election Day, even if received more than five days after the election.

Kansas

Topeka, Kansas
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 10 out of 22 points

In Kansas, any registered voter can get an application for absentee voting without giving an excuse, and ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within five days of it will be accepted.

New Jersey

Trenton, New Jersey
FotosForTheFuture / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 10 out of 22 points

In New Jersey, any registered voter can get an application for absentee voting without an excuse, and ballots postmarked by Election Day will be accepted, even if they are received more than five days after the election.

North Carolina

North Carolina capitol
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Grade: B

Score: 10 out of 22 points

North Carolina is the last state on the list to receive a B grade. It will send every registered voter an application for absentee voting.

Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 9 out of 22 points

Alaska will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any voter can request an application for an absentee ballot without giving a reason. Ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within five days of it will be accepted.

Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona
welcomia / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 9 out of 22 points

Arizona will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any voter can request an application for an absentee ballot. It also receives points from Brookings for not requiring witness signatures on the ballot.

Georgia

Georgia Capitol
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 9 out of 22 points

Like Arizona, Georgia will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any voter can request an absentee ballot, and the state does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

New York

New York and the Statue of Liberty
UTBP / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 9 out of 22 points

New York received no points from Brookings for making ballot applications easier for voters, but got credit for other basic steps including offering multiple channels for acquiring an absentee ballot and submitting one.

It will also accept ballots postmarked by Election Day, even if they arrive more than five days later.

Florida

Tallahassee, Florida
Susanne Pommer / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 8 out of 22 points

Florida will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any voter can request an application for an absentee ballot, and the state does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

However, it lost a point on the Brookings scorecard for requiring a copy of photo ID to get an application and/or a ballot. That’s one of three areas where points could be deducted from a state’s score.

Maine

Maine legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 8 out of 22 points

Maine will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning any voter can request an application for an absentee ballot, and it does not require voters to provide witness signatures on the ballot.

New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico
BrigitteT / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 8 out of 22 points

One of five states to receive a score of 8 points, New Mexico will offer “no excuse” absentee voting and does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 8 out of 22 points

Pennsylvania will offer “no excuse” absentee voting and does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

Wyoming

Wyoming Capitol
David Gilder / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 8 out of 22 points

Wyoming will also offer “no excuse” absentee voting and does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

Idaho

Idaho
Charles Knowles / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 7 out of 22 points

Idaho, too, will offer “no excuse” absentee voting, and it does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Capitol
Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 7 out of 22 points

In Oklahoma, any registered voter can get an application for absentee voting without providing an excuse.

Completed ballots do not require a witness signature, but voters are instead required to provide a copy of a photo ID to get a ballot, a requirement that cost the state 1 point.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Capitol
wolffpower / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 7 out of 22 points

Idaho, too, will offer “no excuse” absentee voting. It does not require witness signatures on the ballot.

Texas

Texas Capitol
clayton harrison / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 7 out of 22 points

Texas received no points from Brookings for making applications easier for voters and lost a point for requiring photo ID for either an application or a ballot.

However, mailed ballots don’t require a witness signature and will be counted if postmarked by Election Day and received within five days of it.

Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin
Ian M Johnson / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 7 out of 22 points

Wisconsin is one of five states that scored 7 points. It will send all registered voters an application for an absentee ballot, but a photo ID is required to get the ballot.

Arkansas

Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas
W. Scott McGill / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 6 out of 22 points

Arkansas will allow voters to cite COVID-19 concerns as a reason to request an absentee ballot, but a photo ID is required to get the ballot.

Connecticut

Connecticut
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 6 out of 22 points

Connecticut will also allow voters to cite COVID-19 concerns as a reason they are seeking an absentee ballot, and a witness signature is not required on the ballot.

South Dakota

Pierre, South Dakota
dustin77a / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 6 out of 22 points

South Dakota offers “no excuse” absentee voting, but requires a photo ID to submit a completed ballot.

Tennessee

Tennessee Legislature
Roman Korotkov / Shutterstock.com

Grade: C

Score: 6 out of 22 points

Rounding out the list of “C” grades is Tennessee, where absentee ballots do not require signatures.

Indiana

Indianapolis
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 5 out of 22 points

Indiana mail-in ballots do not require witness signatures, but Brookings subtracted a point from the state scorecard because mailed ballots must be received before the close of polling.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 5 out of 22 points

New Hampshire allows COVID-19 concerns as a reason for absentee voting, but like Indiana, the state demands mailed ballots arrive before the close of polling.

Virginia

Virginia capitol building.
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 5 out of 22 points

Virginia offers “no excuse” absentee voting and makes applications available through three or more channels. However, the state is one of three to garner just 5 points.

Kentucky

Kentucky legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 4 out of 22 points

Kentucky does not require witness signatures on ballots and makes applications available through three or more channels, but does nothing else that earns credit from Brookings.

Montana

Montana legislature
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 4 out of 22 points

Montana offers “no excuse” absentee voting.

South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 3 out of 22 points

South Carolina’s only points on the scorecard come from offering mail and in-person options to submit an absentee ballot and multiple ways to apply for one.

Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana at night
f11 photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 2 out of 22 points

Like South Carolina, Louisiana offers mail and in-person options to submit an absentee ballot and multiple ways to apply for one. However, ballots are due before close of polling, costing the state 1 point from Brookings.

Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 2 out of 22 points

Mississippi accepts COVID-19 concerns on a request for absentee voting, and the state will accept absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within five days of it. But the state requires a notary or two witnesses on absentee ballots, costing it a point from Brookings.

Missouri

Missouri legislature
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Grade: D

Score: 0 out of 22 points

The last of the “D” grades, Missouri offers “no excuse” absentee voting and more than one channel to submit a ballot, but demands a notary or two witness signatures to complete an absentee ballot. So, the points offered by Brookings for the first two are canceled out by the points deducted for the third.

Alabama

Alabama state house
Donald Walker / Shutterstock.com

Grade: F

Score: -1 out of 22 points

Alabama is the only state to get an F grade and the only state to receive a negative score.

It does some things many “D” states do not, including allowing COVID-19 concerns as a reason to request an absentee ballot and providing drop-off boxes, mail and in-person submission options.

However, it also loses points in every category possible by requiring: a copy of photo ID for a mail application and/or ballot, a notary or two witnesses to complete a ballot, and the return of mail ballots by close of polling.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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