Early voting

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Early voting (also called pre-poll voting or advance polling) is a process by which voters in a public election can vote prior to the scheduled election day. Early voting can take place remotely, such as via postal voting, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary among jurisdictions and types of election. The goals of early voting are usually to increase voter participation and relieve congestion at polling stations on election day.

The categories of people who vote early include those who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, and adherents to religious commitments, among others.

The numbers of voters who vote early has increased in recent years. As unconditional (no excuse) early voting has gained ground, some critics have condemned the process as damaging to the democratic process.[1][2][3]


In Australia, where voting is compulsory,[4] early voting is usually known as pre-poll voting. Voters are able to cast a pre-poll vote for a number of reasons, including being away from the electorate, travelling, impending maternity, being unable to leave one's workplace, having religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place, or being more than 8 km from a polling place .[5]


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 either 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.


Early voting in the 2012 Finnish presidential election on the premises of University of Turku, Finland

General advance polling stations where any person entitled to vote may do so are in Finland municipal offices, libraries, post-offices etc. determined by municipalities and abroad Finnish embassies prescribed in decree.

In every municipality there is at least one such polling station.

In Finland special advance polling stations are hospitals, prisons and some other institutions where only the people who receive treatment or are incarcerated there may vote. In addition, people whose ability to move or function is so restricted that they are unable to come to an advance polling station or a polling station on election day may vote in advance at home, i.e. an election commissioner comes to them to receive their vote.

The crew of a Finnish ship abroad may vote in advance on board the ship. The advance voting in ships can begin already on the 18th day before election day.

A possibility to vote by post will be introduced in Finland in the parliamentary elections of 2019. Eligible voters living permanently abroad and eligible voters staying abroad at the time of the elections will have the right to vote by post in general elections. An eligible voter wishing to vote by post orders the postal voting documents to an address abroad, casts his or her vote, and sends the vote back to Finland to the central municipal election board of his or her municipality.[6]


Based on the addresses of the obligatory resident registration for all citizens, all eligible voters in Germany receive automatically a Wahlbenachrichtigung (notification of election which contains a postal vote application form). The notification is sent at least three weeks before an election to the Bundestag. It is possible to cast one's vote directly at the municipal government office that handles the application. Only voters with residence abroad must register by own acting.

The requirement for an excuse has been removed in 2008,[7] but it was just an abstract assurance before that never has been validated. 19% of all voters voted early in 2005.[8]

Rules for the elections in the states, counties, and municipalities of Germany are very similar. Germans living abroad may register and vote via mail for Bundestag elections and European Parliament elections, but not for state and local elections.


In the Republic of Ireland, it is traditional for voters on the remote coastal islands to vote on the day prior to the official date of the election.[9] This is to avoid the possibility that bad weather might impede the delivery of ballot boxes to the count center on the mainland. However, the practice is not universally popular.[10]


Malta introduced early voting in 2009 for general and European Parliament elections; the system was first used in the 2009 election of Members of the European Parliament. Elections in Malta are held over one Saturday. Electors who would be outside the country on the day and are ready to take an oath to that effect may vote one week beforehand, at the premises of the Electoral Commission.

New Zealand[edit]

Early voting, or advance voting, has been possible in New Zealand without a reason since 2008. Advance voting opens 12 days before the election day, with around 500 polling booths set up across the country.[11] Voters attending an appropriate advance polling booth for their electorate (constituency) can cast an ordinary vote in the same way they would if voting on election day. If the voter is outside the electorate, enrolled after the cutoff date (31 days before election day), or is on the unpublished roll, they must cast a special vote.

In the 2011 election, 334,600 advance votes were cast, representing 14.7% of all votes cast.[12] This grew to 48% in the 2017 election.[13]


In Norway early voting is known as "forhåndsstemming". At the general election of 2009, 707,489 Norwegians voted in advance, 200 000 more than the previous record, in 2001.[14]


Early voting station in a supermarket in Malmö during the European Parliament election 2009.

Sweden has traditionally had a high participation in elections and tries to make it as easy as possible to vote. No registration is needed, since everyone is generally registered with a home address. Normally, a voter should vote on the election day in the specified polling station, but everyone can vote during the last week at an early polling station, anywhere in the country, usually municipality-owned places like libraries.

Also, on election day, some polling places are open, even though the election day is always on Sunday. In hospitals and homes for the elderly, there are special voting opportunities. In elections until 1998, post offices were used for several decades as early voting stations (post offices now belong to a commercial company and are no longer nationally administered). Swedes living abroad must register their address and can vote at embassies or through mail.[15]

The early votes are transported to the voter's polling station in double envelopes. On election day, a voter can vote at the polling station. Before the early vote is counted, officials check if the voter has voted at the polling station. If that is the case, the vote is destroyed, with the inner envelope unopened. Early votes that do not reach the polling station in time are transported to the County Administrative Board and counted if the voter has not already voted.[16]


Swiss federal law allows postal voting in all federal elections and referenda,[17] and all cantons allow it for cantonal ballot issues. All voters receive their personal ballot by mail a few weeks before the election or referendum. They may cast it at a polling station on election day or mail it back at any prior time.


In Thailand, early voting is known as เลือกตั้งล่วงหน้า (advance voting). It has been available since the 1997 Constitution of Thailand and is offered both inside and outside the constituency, especially for migrant workers and students, to all voters at central polling places, mostly at the registered district offices, for House of Representatives of Thailand elections and referendums.

Eligible voters are required to register at district offices and receive a reply notification. For advance voting outside the constituency, voters must register not less than 30 days before election day unless the voter has registered for the latest election. Voters who would like to go back and vote at their original constituency (according to house registration) must apply for register cancellation.

Thais living abroad may also register at embassies or consulates and vote through mail or at the embassies or consulates prior to election day.

Early voting day is the same as election day: voters must be carrying proof of identity, but it may be expired. The Election Commission uses post offices to send constituency ballots from other constituencies and abroad to original constituencies. They will be counted with election day constituency ballots.

Early voting in the 2011 Thai general election was arranged on a Sunday (26 June 2011) while prior elections were arranged on both Saturday and Sunday. Around 2.6 million people, including 1.07 million in Bangkok turned up to vote, however, many potential voters were unable to vote because of large crowds.[18] Voters who did not vote on early voting day still can vote at their original constituencies on election day.

United States[edit]

Then-incumbent President Barack Obama participating in early voting for the 2016 elections

Early voting is similar to "no-excuse" absentee voting.[19] In many U.S. states the period varies between four and fifty days prior to Election Day.[20] Early voting in person is allowed without excuse required in 33 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia (DC). Absentee voting by mail without excuse is allowed in 27 states and DC. In 20 states, an excuse is required. No-excuse permanent absentee voting is allowed in 6 states and in DC, and 3 states (Oregon, Washington and Colorado) conduct all early voting by mail.[21]

History of early voting in United States presidential elections
Year Early votes Source
2016 36.6% [22]
2012 31.6% [23]
2008 30.6% [24]
2004 22%
2000 16% [25]
1992 7% [24]

District of Columbia[edit]

Sign indicating an early/absentee voting station in Fairfax County, Virginia

The District of Columbia allows no-excuse for both absentee and early voting.[26] Voters may vote at any of the early voting centers located in DC, as each center has ballots for each precinct.[27]


Florida officially began early voting in 2004 as reflected in statute 101.657 f.s.[28]

Turnout for early voting exceeded a million in 2004. There were some problems: first 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 2016 early voting requests increased 77% in Florida among Hispanic-Americans compared to 2012.[29]


[citation needed] In Georgia, "early voting" and "advance voting" have two different meanings. Voting a week early is called "advance" voting and is typically available at several locations in urban and suburban counties. Voting well in advance, up to 45 days before election day, is called "early" voting and is normally available only at the 159 county election offices (where "advance" voting is also available). There is no voting the day before election day.


Early voting in Rockville, Maryland

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

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November 2008 to allow early voting, starting with the primary elections in 2010. Maryland now offers both early voting in person and absentee voting by mail.[30]


Early voting was first used in Massachusetts for the general election of November 2016, where voters could cast ballots during the October 24 to November 4 timeframe. Over a million ballots were cast, with 22% of registered voters in the state taking advantage of early voting.[31]

New York[edit]

On January 24, 2019,[32] New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure to allow ten days of early voting throughout the state of New York.[33]

Other states[edit]

The National Conference of State Legislatures 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.[21]


  1. ^ "Does Early Voting Damage Democracy?". The Week. September 25, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Case Against Early Voting". PoliticoMagazine. January 28, 2014.
  3. ^ Jacoby, Jeff. "Vote Early, Vote Foolish." Townhall. March 15, 2016. Archived November 3, 2016, at Archive.today
  4. ^ "Compulsory Voting". Australian Electoral Commission. Commonwealth Government. 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Voting". Australian Electoral Commission. Commonwealth Government. 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  6. ^ https://vaalit.fi/en/voting
  7. ^ "Wahlrecht – News – Briefwahl nun ohne Hinderungsgrund möglich". Wahlrecht.de. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
  8. ^ Der Bundeswahlleiter: Wahl zum 16. Deutschen Bundestag am 18. September 2005, Heft 5: Textliche Auswertung der Wahlergebnisse Archived 2007-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, page 38, table 15 (in German)
  9. ^ "Island voting in Election 2016 commences one day early". Irish Times Newspaper - Thu, Feb 25, 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  10. ^ "'Down with this sort of thing', say islanders forced to vote day early". Irish Independent Newspaper. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Advance voting starts on Monday". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  12. ^ Cheng, Derek (3 September 2014). "In early to make your vote count - from today". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  13. ^ "Advance voting statistics". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  14. ^ "707 489 har forhåndsstemt". regjeringen.no. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  15. ^ Valmyndigheten: Voting Archived 2012-10-23 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Valmyndigheten: Förtidsrösta i Sverige". Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  17. ^ Federal Statute on Political Rights , SR/RS 161.1 (E·D·F·I), art. 8 (E·D·F·I)
  18. ^ "Large crowds for advance voting". The Nation (Thailand). Bangkok. 27 June 2011. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011.
  19. ^ Desilver, Drew; Geiger, Abigail. "For many Americans, Election Day is already here". www.pewresearch.org. Pew Research Center. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  20. ^ White, Daniel. "These Are the States That Allow You to Vote Early". www.time.com. Time Magazine. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  21. ^ a b Absentee and Early Voting. National Conference of State Legislatures.
  22. ^ http://www.electproject.org/early_2016
  23. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-p-mcdonald/a-modest-early-voting-ris_b_3430379.html
  24. ^ a b Michael McDonald (2010-05-01). "(Nearly) Final 2008 Early Voting Statistics". Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  25. ^ "A third of electorate could vote before Nov. 4" Archived 2008-09-25 at the Wayback Machine. By Stephen Ohlemacher and Julie Pace. Sep 21, 2008. Associated Press. Article copies: [1] [2].
  26. ^ "Chapter 10. Elections". dccouncil.us. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  27. ^ "Polling Places". www.dcboe.org/. DC Board of Elections. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  28. ^ "Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine". www.leg.state.fl.us. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  29. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2016/oct/06/hillary-clinton-early-voting-us-2016-election
  30. ^ "Early Voting". Elections.state.md.us. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  31. ^ "2016 Early Voting Statistics". sec.state.ma.us. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  32. ^ http://www.qgazette.com/news/2019-01-30/Political_Page/I_On_Politics.html
  33. ^ http://www.wshu.org/post/cuomo-signs-early-voting-bill-law

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