Absentee Voting in Case of a Personal Emergency

6/20/2018

Introduction

picture of I voted sticker

NOTE:  Please note this webpage is designed for general informational purposes and is not intended as a legal reference. NCSL is unable to aid, advise or answer questions regarding individual cases. If you have questions regarding your eligibility to vote in state or local elections, please contact your local board of elections. 

States set policy on how to provide absentee voting opportunities for some or all of their voters.

In all states, military voters, who are largely covered by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), are permitted to vote absentee.

For other voters, some states require a voter to have a valid excuse to request an absentee ballot, such as being out of the state on Election Day or an illness that prevents attendance at the polls. Other states are “no-excuse” states, which permit all eligible voters to request an absentee ballot within a given timeframe. See NCSL’s webpage on Absentee and Early Voting for additional information.

Regardless of whether or not a state requires an excuse to vote absentee, the state will have a deadline by which a voter must request an absentee ballot. The deadline varies anywhere from the day before the election to two weeks before the election (see Vote.org’s page on Absentee Ballot Deadlines for more information). This deadline is set so that election officials have time to process absentee ballot requests before the election, and to record which voters have requested absentee ballots. 

In addition, states set emergency procedures for the occasions when, due to some type of personal ememrgency, registered voters are unable to vote on Election Day and were not able to apply for an absentee ballot before the deadline.

This webpage addresses emergency absentee voting procedures in states. 

Requirements and Procedures for Emergency Absentee Voting

To receive an emergency absentee ballot, most states require an application. The application verifies that the registered voter falls within the requirements for emergency absentee voting in that state.

Requirements to qualify for an emergency ballot vary, but the most common reason that states permit a voter to use this option is due to a medical emergency such as unforeseen illness, confinement to a medical facility, disabilities or accidents resulting in injury. At least 38 states permit emergency absentee voting under these circumstances:

  • Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Many states have special provisions to help get an absentee ballot to a voter who is unable to get to the polls on Election Day. For example:

  • Election officials will deliver an absentee ballot to voters confined due to a medical emergency in Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia.
  • In Arkansas, Colorado*, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah, voters who are hospitalized on Election Day may designate a family member or agent to assist with requesting, delivering and submitting an absentee ballot to local election officials.
  • In Maryland voters may submit a request to receive an absentee ballot online by the Friday before the election, and can have an agent apply for an absentee ballot until the polls close on Election Day.

At least 12 states have special provisions and procedures that allow first responders to vote when called away for an emergency:

  • Alabama, California, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wyoming.

Some states also permit emergency absentee voting due to an unexpected absence from the voting jurisdiction on Election Day. Other miscellaneous reasons include confinement to jail while awaiting trial, religious holidays, subpoenas, working the Election Day polls, or even a space flight (for Texans). Details on these states and what conditions pertain are in the table below.

*Colorado mails ballots to all eligible voters, but if there is an emergency or natural disaster after the deadline by which ballots are mailed and a voter can’t get a replacement ballot in person, they may designate an authorized representative to obtain a replacement ballot on their behalf.

Emergency Absentee Voting Options by State

State and Statue

Summary

Alabama

Code of Ala. § 17-11-3

With a valid excuse, all voters may submit an absentee ballot request up to five days before the election. Within five days of an election, voters with medical or work-related emergencies may qualify for an absentee ballot. If emergency workers are responding to an emergency, then they can to vote by absentee ballot.

Alaska 

Alaska Stat. § 15.20.081

The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is 10 days before the election. Voters may request absentee ballots be delivered by electronic transmission up until 5 p.m. on Election Day. 

Arizona

A.R.S. § 16-549

In the case of a medical emergency after the absentee request deadline (the second Friday before the election), the county board of electors will personally deliver a ballot to a voter’s place of confinement.

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 7-5-404(3)

A.C.A. § 7-5-403
A voter with a valid excuse can appoint an agent to submit an absentee request on Election Day. The agent may obtain ballots from the county clerk for not more than two voters per election who cannot cast a ballot at the appropriate polling place on Election Day because the voter is a patient in a hospital or long-term care facility. 

California

Cal Elec Code § 3021

Cal Elec Code § 3021.5

The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot by mail is seven days before the election. A voter may request an absentee ballot in person up until Election Day. After the close of the period for requesting a vote by mail ballot a voter unable to go to the polls because of illness, confinement or absence can request, under penalty of perjury, that a ballot be delivered. Out-of-state emergency responders can vote by mail or fax after the deadline to request a mail in ballot.

Colorado

C.R.S. 1-7.5-115

All eligible voters receive mail ballots. If an emergency or natural disaster occurs after the deadline by which ballots are mailed and a voter cannot vote in person, he may designate an authorized representative to obtain a replacement ballot on his behalf. 

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-150c

If a voter becomes hospitalized within six days of the election, the voter can designate someone to deliver an absentee application to the clerk.

Delaware

15 Del. C. § 5503

There is not an emergency statute, but a voter can request an absentee ballot until noon the day before the election.

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 101.62(4)(c)

A vote-by-mail ballot can be picked up by a voter or the voter’s family member before 7 p.m. on Election Day in case of an emergency.

Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 21-2-384

Hospitalized voters can have an absentee ballot delivered to the hospital by an election official during the period five days before the election.

Hawaii

§15-4 

Hawaii Administrative Rules Section 3-174-2

Absentee deadline ends a week prior to the election, but the clerk can honor absentee requests after the deadline if they deem it necessary. 

Idaho

Idaho Code § 34-1002

Voters can request an emergency absentee ballot within 96 hours of the election if they are unable to make it to the polls.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/19-13

Voters hospitalized within 14 days of an election are entitled to personal delivery of an absentee ballot subject to certain conditions.

Indiana

Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 3-11-4-1

Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 3-11-8-25.7

County board of elections must approve an emergency ballot by unanimous vote in cases where a person has been hospitalized or suffered an injury that would prevent the person from voting at the polls after the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot. The state election division prescribes a way for military and public safety officers to vote when responding to an emergency. 

Iowa

Iowa Code § 53.22(2)

Voters hospitalized within three days of the election can request an absentee ballot within four hours of the polls closing.

Kansas

K.S.A. § 25-1122
Voters with a temporary illness or disability or who is not proficient in reading the English language or a person rendering assistance to such a voter can apply for an advanced ballot up until the polls close on Election Day.

Kentucky

KRS § 117.077

A voter suffering some medical emergency 14 days or less before the election can request an absentee ballot.

Louisiana

La. R.S. § 18:1308

A person hospitalized during early voting or on Election Day can vote by mail. Out-of-state emergency workers are allowed to vote by mail, fax, or other methods.

Maine

21-A M.R.S. § 753-B(2)(D)

21-A M.R.S. § 663
The deadline to request an absentee ballot for all voters is the third business day before the election. A voter that has an unexpected absence, illness, physical disability, or inability to travel to the polls can request an absentee ballot after the deadline. First responders can vote absentee when responding to an emergency on Election Day.

Maryland

Md. Election Law Code Ann. § 9-305

Voters can request an absentee ballot be sent by mail or fax until the Tuesday before the election, or by internet by the Friday before the election. Voters can have their agent apply for an absentee ballot until the polls close on Election Day.

Massachusetts

ALM GL ch. 54, § 89
Voters admitted to the hospital after noon on the fifth day before an election can apply for an absentee ballot until the polls close.

Michigan

MCLS § 168.759b

If a voter becomes physically disabled or is absent from the polling location due to sickness or death in the family after the absentee request deadline, the voter can request an absentee ballot up until 4 p.m. on Election Day. 

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 203B.04

A voter who becomes hospitalized on the day before the election may apply for an absentee ballot on election day, and can have the absentee ballot delivered by election officials.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-715

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-673

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-699
Emergency responders who are deployed during the time period for absentee voting or election day are eligible to return ballots electronically (by email, fax or web-based system). Emergency response providers are allowed to vote by mail, fax, or e-mail if responding to an emergency on Election Day

Missouri

§ 115.279 R.S.Mo.
There is no emergency exception to the absentee ballot deadline, which is the Wednesday before the election.

Montana

13-13-211, MCA
Voters experiencing a health-related emergency between 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election and the close of polls on Election Day can request an emergency absentee ballot.

Nebraska

R.R.S. Neb. § 32-941

R.R.S. Neb. § 32-943

There is not an emergency absentee extension, but if the voter requested an absentee ballot before the deadline (close of business on the second Friday before the election) then an agent can retrieve and deliver the ballot for them.

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 293.316

If a voter is suddenly ill, called away from home, or confined to a medical facility, the voter may request an absentee ballot be delivered to them up until 5 p.m. on Election Day.

New Hampshire

RSA 657:1

RSA 657:21-a

There is no absentee request deadline, but voters must send in absentee application in time to receive ballot and cast the ballot by 5 p.m. on election day. If emergency service workers are called away before they can vote, election officials shall make every reasonable effort to ensure absentee ballot requests, ballots, and all related materials are transported to the emergency service workers and returned to the correct election jurisdiction.

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. § 19:63-3(d)

Any registered voter can apply for a mail-in ballot in person to the county clerk up until 3 p.m. the day before the election.

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-6-16.2

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-6B-9

If a voter contracts an unforeseen illness or disability resulting in confinement, then the voter can cast a provisional ballot via an authorized representative until the time the polls close on Election Day. Emergency response providers can use the same procedures as UOCAVA voters if called away for an emergency no later than 35 days before an election.

New York

NY CLS Elec § 8-400

NY CLS Elec § 11-308

Voters absent from the county, unable to go to the polls due to their own or a family member’s physical illness, at hospital, or detained waiting trial can request an absentee ballot up until the day of the election. Applications can be requested and delivered by a family member or a member of the voter’s household. Emergency responders can apply for an emergency absentee ballot by fax, mail, or email if responding to an emergency.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163A-1308(b)

Voters who cannot vote in person on Election Day due to their own illness or the illness of a family member can request or have a family member request an application to vote between 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election and 5 p.m. on the day of the election.

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code, § 16.1-07-05

In case of an emergency, a voter can request an absentee ballot through an agent on Election Day.

Ohio

ORC Ann. 3509.08

If the voter or the voter’s minor child is confined to a hospital because of an unforeseen emergency, then the voter can request an absentee ballot by 3 p.m. on Election Day. The ballot can be delivered in person, by mail, a family member, or by members of both parties. 

Oklahoma

26 Okl. St. § 14-110.1

26 Okl. St. § 14-115.6

If a voter is physically incapacitated or caring for another that is incapacitated and cannot be left alone, then the voter can request an absentee ballot by mail, fax, electronic communication or by an agent. If a first responder is called away within 10 days of an election, then they can request an emergency absentee ballot that must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Oregon

ORS § 254.465
All elections are conducted by mail. 

Pennsylvania

25 P.S. § 3146.2a

If a voter learns they cannot go to the polls between the Tuesday and Friday prior to the election for medical or business reasons, then they are entitled to an absentee ballot. If a voter learns they cannot go to the polls after 5 p.m. on the Friday prior to the election due to illness or business reasons, then the voter can appeal to the court of common pleas for an emergency absentee ballot, which may be delivered by an authorized representative or deputy sheriff. 

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-2.2

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-2
The deadline to request an absentee ballot, with a valid excuse is the 21st day before the election. After the deadline, a voter who is incapacitated to the extent that it would be an undue hardship to vote at the polls or who is not able to vote at his or her polling place on the day of the election is entitled to an emergency ballot. 

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-330

Absentee ballot requests for qualified voters must be received by 5 p.m. on the fourth day before the election. If a person is admitted to a hospital on the day of an election or within the four-day period before the election, an immediate family member may complete an absentee ballot application, receive the ballot, deliver it personally to the patient and personally carry the ballot back to election officials.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-2.1

If a voter is confined because of sickness or disability, then they can request an absentee ballot by a certified messenger until 3 p.m. on the day of the election.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-6-401

A voter can request an absentee ballot if they are hospitalized with 20 days of the election, delivered by “emergency registrars.” A voter can vote in-person absentee between five days and one day before the election if there is a death in the family or they receive a subpoena requiring their absence on Election Day.

Texas

Tex. Elec. Code § 102.001

Tex. Elec. Code § 103.001

Tex. Elec. Code § 106.002

A voter can request a late ballot if they have a sickness or injury on or after the last day to request a ballot by mail. A voter can request a late ballot if they have a death in the family on or after the last day to request a ballot by mail. A voter may vote by electronic transmission if they are on a space flight.

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 20A-3-306.5

A voter that is hospitalized after the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot may obtain an absentee ballot on election day via a third party. 

Vermont

17 V.S.A. § 2531

17 V.S.A. § 2538

Any voter can apply for an absentee ballot until the day before the election. If an absentee voter needs their ballot delivered, then two justices of the peace (one from each party) will deliver a ballot to the voter.

Virginia

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-705

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-705.1

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-700

A voter that is incapacitated due to illness or death of an immediate family member after the seventh day preceding an election can request an emergency absentee ballot before 2 p.m. on the day before the election.

If a person learns they will be absent on Election Day after noon on the Saturday before an election due to business, hospitalization of themselves or immediate family, or the death of an immediate family member, then the voter can request an absentee ballot before 2 p.m. on the day before the election. There is not a specific emergency provision for first responders, but they are listed in general absentee and could fall under the business exception for emergency absentee ballots.

Washington

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 29A.40.010
All elections are conducted by mail.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 3-3-1

W. Va. Code § 3-3-5c

Voters that are confined to a healthcare facility or replacing a poll worker on Election Day qualify for an emergency absentee ballot. Upon the request for an emergency absentee ballot, two commissioners (one from each party) can deliver the emergency absentee ballot to a healthcare facility.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 6.86
If a voter is a sequestered juror or hospitalized, then the voter can apply for an absentee ballot by 5 p.m. on Election Day. 

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-9-102

Wyo. Stat. § 22-9-105

Wyo. Stat. § 22-2-121(c)

Any voter can vote apply for an absentee ballot up until Election Day. The secretary of state can issue a directive so emergency personnel who cannot otherwise vote on Election Day can vote absentee.

 

About the author.
Matthew Catron is a legal intern at NCSL. He attends William & Mary Law School where he is co-president of the Election Law Society and a staff member of the William & Mary Law Review.