VOPP Table 16: When Absentee/Mail Ballot Processing and Counting Can Begin

4/17/2020

This table is part of NCSL’s Voting Outside the Polling Place report.

In many states, processing of absentee ballots can begin before they are actually counted. “Processing” means different things in different states, but typically the first step is comparing the affidavit signature on the outside of the return envelope against the voter’s signature on record to ensure a match, or otherwise verify the voter’s identity. See the section titled, “Processing, Verifying, and Counting Absentee Ballots.”

In some states once the signature is verified the envelope can then be opened and the ballot prepared for tabulation. In essence, states that begin processing before Election Day can “tee up” absentee ballots so that they are ready to be counted as soon as the law allows. By permitting election officials to do a lot of the work ahead of time, the counting process on Election Day (and election results reporting) are quicker. Results are not released ahead of time.

State Absentee/Mail Ballot Processing Can Begin Absentee/Mail Ballot Counting Can Begin

Alabama

Code of Ala. §17-11-10
Noon on Election Day. After the polls close on Election Day.

Alaska

Alaska Stat. §15.20.201
Seven days before Election Day. 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Arizona

Ariz. Stat. §16–550, §16-551
Tallying can begin 14 days before Election Day. Tallying can begin 14 days before Election Day, but results may not be released before all precincts are reporting or one hour after the closing of polls on Election Day. Releasing information earlier is a felony.

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 7-5-416

Seven days before Election Day. 8:30 a.m. on Election Day. Results are reported after the polls close on Election Day.

California

West's Ann. Cal. Elec. Code § 15101
Signature verification for all-mail jurisdictions can begin 29 days before Election Day. Processing can begin 19 days before Election Day. Jurisdictions that are not all-mail can start processing at 5 p.m. the day before Election Day. A vote count can be accessed or released at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § § 1-7.5-107.5
Upon receipt. Fifteen days before Election Day. The vote count cannot be released until after 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-150a
At the discretion of the local registrar of voters. At the discretion of the local registrar of voters.

Delaware

15 Del. C. § 5510
Friday before Election Day. Friday before Election Day. The vote count cannot be extracted or reported until polls close on Election Day.

District of Columbia

D.C. Mun. Regs. Tit. 3, § 808
Signatures can be verified and the secrecy envelope removed prior to tabulation. Exact timing not specified. After the polls close on Election Day.

Florida

West's F.S.A. § 101.68
Signature verification can begin at 7 a.m. 22 days before Election Day. After the polls close on Election Day. Releasing the results early is a felony.

Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 21-2-386
Signature verification conducted upon receipt. 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Hawaii

HRS § 15-9, §11-152
Upon receipt. Counting may start before Election Day. Exact timing not specified.

Idaho

Idaho Code §34-1005, §34-1008
Affidavit verified upon receipt. Ballots are not opened until they are delivered to the polls or central location for counting. After the polls close on Election Day.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/19-8
Signature verification must begin within two days of receipt. 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Indiana

IC 3-11.5-4-12, 3-11.5-5-3
Upon receipt. No later than noon on Election Day or immediately after the electronic poll books used at each polling place or vote center have been updated to indicate the county received the absentee ballot.

Iowa

Iowa Code §53.23
Affidavits may be reviewed the day before Election Day. On Election Day, at a time set by the election commissioner to allow a reasonable amount of time to complete the count of absentee ballots by 10 p.m. on Election Day.

Kansas

K.S.A. § 25-1134
Prior to Election Day. Exact timing not specified. Ballots may be counted prior to Election Day, but final tabulation shall not be completed until Election Day.

Kentucky

KRS § 117.087
8 a.m. on Election Day. Counting begins after all absentee ballots have been processed.

Louisiana

LSA-R.S. 18:1313
Prior to the closing of the polls. Exact timing not specified. Counting may begin before Election Day but no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 759
On Election Day before the polls close if notice of processing times is posted at least seven days before the election. After the polls close on Election Day.

Maryland

MD Code, Election Law, § 11-302
After the election.   8 a.m. the Wednesday after Election Day.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. 54 § 95
After the polls close on Election Day. No later than an hour after the polls close on Election Day.

Michigan

MCLS §168.765 et seq.
On Election Day.   On Election Day before the polls close at the jurisdiction’s discretion. Anyone with access to absentee ballot counting must sign an oath that information related to processing and tallying will not be communicated in any way until after the polls close.

Minnesota

M.S.A. §203B.121
Verification upon receipt. After the close of business on the seventh day before the election, verified ballots can be opened and deposited in a ballot box. After the polls close on Election Day.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-

639
After the polls close on Election Day. After the polls close on Election Day.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 115.300
Five days before Election Day. On Election Day.

Montana

Mont. Code Anno., § 13-13-241
Signature verification conducted upon receipt. Three days before Election Day, election officials may open the secrecy envelope and place the ballot in a secured ballot box until tabulation occurs, but this process may not occur on a Saturday or Sunday. One day before Election Day, if using a vote-counting machine. Tabulation using a manual count may not begin until Election Day. Access to an electronic system containing early tabulation results is limited to the election administrator.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. §32-1027
Verification can begin the second Monday before Election Day. If approved, the envelope can be opened, the ballot unfolded and flattened and placed in a sealed container. Twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls. No results shall be released until after polls close on Election Day.

Nevada

Nev. Stat. §293.325, §293.333
Signature verification conducted upon receipt. Ballots are placed in a secured ballot box, unopened until they are delivered to the central counting board. Processing cannot begin earlier than four days before Election Day. On Election Day. No results may be reported until after the polls close.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:49
At 1 p.m. on Election Day, unless a different time, no earlier than two hours after the opening of the polls, is posted and announced. After the polls close on Election Day.

New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 19:63-17, 19:63-22
Signature verification conducted upon receipt. On Election Day.  

New Mexico

N. M. S. A. § 1-6-14
Any time after mailed ballots have been sent until the fifth day before the election, the county clerk may convene an election board to meet during normal business hours to qualify mailed ballots that are returned. If more than 10,000 absentee ballots are sent, they may be opened and inserted into an electronic voting machine two weeks before Election Day. If fewer than 10,000 absentee ballots are sent, processing may begin four days before the election. Absentee ballots are inserted into vote-counting machines to be registered and retained before Election Day, but votes are not counted until after the polls close. It is unlawful for a person to disclose the results of a count or tally prior to the closing of the polls or the deadline for receiving mailed ballots.

New York

McKinney's Election Law § 9-209
On Election Day. On Election Day.

North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A. § 163A-1315
County boards of elections may take preparatory steps earlier than the times specified provided that these steps do no reveal election results to any individual not engaged in the actual count. Two weeks prior to Election Day, provided the hour and place of counting is announced. Results shall not be announced before 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

North Dakota

NDCC, 16.1-07-12
The day before Election Day. After the polls close on Election Day.

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code § 3509.06
Processing may begin before the time for counting ballots. Exact timing not specified. Absentee ballots may be scanned prior to the election, but the count may not be disclosed prior to the closing of the polls.

Oklahoma

26 Okl. St. Ann. § 14-125
Prior to Election Day with approval by the secretary of the state election board. Prior to Election Day with approval by the secretary of the state election board. When counting occurs before the election, the county election board shall remove the election results storage media from the voting device, without obtaining a printout of results, and seal ballots counted that day in a transfer case secured by the sheriff until the time the board next meets to count. Results cannot be reported earlier than 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 254.478, § 260.705
No sooner than seven days before the election county clerks may begin opening identification and secrecy envelopes and scan ballots into a vote tally system. A person may not make public the results of the tally of votes from any precinct until after 8pm on election day.

Pennsylvania

25 P.S. § 3146.8
After polls close on Election Day. After the polls close on Election Day.

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-26, §17-22-1             
Fourteen days before Election Day. After processing and certification, envelopes may be opened, ballots removed and scanned through central count optical scan units. 8 p.m. on Election Day.

South Carolina

S.C. Code § 7-15-420

9 a.m. on Election Day. 9 a.m. on Election Day. Results may not be reported until after the polls close.

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-19-10, § 12-19-46
Processing may begin when sealed absentee ballots are delivered to precincts with the election supplies, but only if the election board is not otherwise engaged in official duties. After polls close on Election Day. Prior to this, no person may open, unfold or examine any ballot, or make any communication to any person concerning the marking or contents of the ballot. A violation is a misdemeanor.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-6-202, § 2-6-303, § 2-6-304
Signature verification conducted upon receipt. At that point, the fact that the voter has cast a ballot is recorded, and the absentee ballot envelope is deposited into a ballot box. On Election Day after the polls open and no later than four hours before closing for general elections, or two hours before closing for all other elections.

Texas

V.T.C.A., Election Code § 87.0241,

§ 87.041
Signature and voter verification may be conducted upon receipt. When the polls open on Election Day. In a jurisdiction with more than 100,000 people, counting can begin at the end of the early voting by personal appearance period.

Utah

U.C.A. § 20A-3-309
Processing may begin before Election Day. Exact timing not specified. Counting may begin before Election Day. Exact timing not specified. Results may not be reported until after the polls close on Election Day.

Vermont

17 V.S.A. § 2546a
The day before the election, at least one hour before depositing ballots in the vote tabulator, absentee ballot envelopes may be examined and inspected by members of the public. The day before the election, absentee ballots may be deposited in a vote tabulator. The machine is turned on and the ballots tabulated on Election Day.

Virginia

VA Code Ann. § 24.2-709.1,

§ 24.2-712

Before Election Day as needed to expedite counting absentee ballots. Ballots may be inserted into ballot-counting machines prior to the closing of the polls, but no ballot count totals by the machines shall be initiated until the polls close. If absentee ballots are counted by hand, tallying may begin after 3 p.m. on Election Day. Vote counts may not be reported until after the polls close.

Washington

West's RCWA 29A.40.110

29A.84.730
Upon receipt. 8 p.m. on Election Day. No person may divulge any results of the count prior to 8 p.m. on Election Day. A violation is a misdemeanor.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code, § 3-3-8
Absentee ballots are delivered to precincts on Election Day. On Election Day. Disclosure of any results before the voting has been closed and precinct returns posted on the door of polling places is a violation of the oath taken by the counting board.

Wisconsin

W.S.A. 6.88
After the polls open on Election Day. After the polls open on Election Day.

Wyoming

W.S § 22-9-121
Absentee ballots are delivered to precincts on Election Day. As time permits, election judges examine the affidavits, enter voters’ names in poll books, open envelopes, place ballots in a ballot box or vote it on a machine, as applicable. On Election Day.