NCSL Reviews State Laws on Ballot Procedures

10/19/2020

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Media Alert

Oct. 20, 2020

Denver—The upcoming election proves to be a unique responsibility for states with more than 27 million absentee ballots already cast. While the most common deadline to receive absentee/mailed ballots is Election Day, the time frame of vote processing shifts with an increase in absentee/mailed ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The updated webpage, “Voting Outside the Polling Place: Absentee, All-Mail and other Voting at Home Options,” details state-specific policies on processing, verifying and counting absentee ballots. For changes that are for 2020 only, see “Absentee and Mail Voting Policies in Effect for the 2020 Election.”

Currently, all states allow the return of absentee/mailed ballots through the mail. Almost all states allow voters to drop off absentee/mail ballots at election offices, and, in many states, drop boxes are available as well. Some states accept ballots received after Election Day if postmarked on Election Day or before.

To assist election officials, 44 states permit the processing of absentee/mailed ballots prior to Election Day—confirming the affidavit signature, removing the ballot from the envelope and stacking the ballot. Every state waits to release any results until the close of polls on Election Day.

Additionally, results aren’t official until the date of certification, which varies state by state. Wyoming has the earliest certification date—Nov. 11. Several states won’t certify all elections until January 2021.

In addition to this resource, NCSL’s “State Elections 2020” has the most comprehensive state election analysis you’ll find before and after the election.

Additional NCSL 50-state data resources include:


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.