Early voting (also called pre-poll voting or advance polling) is the process by which electors can vote prior to the scheduled election day. Early voting can take place remotely, such as postal voting, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary between jurisdictions and type of election. The goal of early voting is usually to increase voter participation and relieve congestion at polling stations on election day.
The types of people who vote early include people who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, 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, voices have been raised against it as seriously damaging to the democratic process.
In Australia, early voting is known as pre-poll voting. However, to cast an early vote a voter must already be registered.
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 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.
Finland and Sweden have similar early voting systems. The only distinction is that Finland uses post offices as early voting stations.
In Germany, most eligible voters are required to register their place of residence and receive a Wahlbenachrichtigung (notification of election) at least 3 weeks before an election to the Bundestag, which also contains a postal vote application form. It is possible to cast one's vote directly at the office that handles the application, the municipal government.
Rules for the elections in the states of Germany and on county and municipal level are very similar.
Germans living abroad may register and vote through mail for Bundestag elections and European Parliament elections but not for state and local elections.
It is common for voters on the remote coastal islands to vote in the few days prior to the election in case bad weather impedes voting on the official day.
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.
Early voting, or advance voting, has been possible in New Zealand without a reason since 2008. Advance voting opens on the Wednesday 17 days before the election day, with around 300 polling booths set up across the country. Voters attending an appropriate advance polling booth for their electorate can cast an ordinary vote in the same way they would do 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.
Sweden has traditionally 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 of them 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.
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.
Swiss federal law allows postal voting in all federal elections and referenda, 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 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 Thai general election, 2011 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. Voters who did not vote on early voting day still can vote at their original constituencies on election day.
Early voting is similar to "no-excuse" absentee voting. In many U.S. states the period varies between four and fifty days prior to Election Day. 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 elections by mail.
|History of early voting in U.S. presidential elections|
District of Columbia
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.
 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.
In August 2006, a judge ruled in favor of several plaintiffs that the state constitution permitted voting only on the day of the election. 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.
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