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New Profiles Offer Bird’s-Eye Views of Each State’s Election Laws

NCSL and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission teamed up to create one-page policy overviews.

By Katie King  |  March 27, 2024

All states are looking for the same outcomes in election administration: accuracy, accessibility for all eligible voters and accountability. But states vary in the ways they achieve those goals.

For instance, all states have ways to confirm voters get the right ballot. All states have absentee voting—though some ask voters to indicate why they need to vote absentee. All states have checks and balances to ensure ballots are counted accurately—but those post-voting options do differ.

Because it can be hard to keep even one state’s policies straight—let alone Washington, D.C., and 49 others—NCSL and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission created one-page election policy profiles for each state. The profiles are available online and as printable PDFs.

While the more detailed NCSL Election Resources page gets into the nitty-gritty on each policy topic, the one-page profiles give a bird’s-eye view of election policies one state at a time. Created with policymakers in mind, the profiles outline each state’s policies and offer a glimpse of where that state stands nationally on particular policies.

Each profile is broken into four sections: state information; voter registration policies; voting policies; and “other.” Below are more details on each section.

State Information

This section details the administrative structure in each state. In most states, such as Idaho and Minnesota, the secretary of state is the chief election official; in Utah and Alaska, it’s the lieutenant governor. Other states have boards that oversee elections and designate the chief election official. The profiles also list which officials run elections locally, though they can hold different titles. In some states, one local official oversees elections; in others, the duties are split between two or more offices. Each profile links to the state’s election website so voters, lawmakers and others can get accurate, up-to-date information about their state’s elections.

Voter Registration

Except for North Dakota, every state has voter registration. (North Dakota keeps a list of people who vote.) But how each state manages voter registration varies. Alabama and California are among the 42 states with online voter registration, and Georgia and Vermont are among the states that also have automatic voter registration. (When voters interact with a qualifying state agency, such as the DMV, they are automatically registered to vote if they meet the qualifications.) Louisiana and New York allow preregistration for 16-year-olds; Oklahoma permits preregistration for 17.5-year-olds; and Pennsylvania requires eligible voters to be 18 before they can register to vote. Voter registration deadlines and Election Day or same-day registration policies are included in this section.


Policies about voting itself vary widely by state. Missouri and Michigan require some form of identification to vote in person, while New Jersey and New Mexico do not if ID was presented at the time of registration. Nationwide, early voting begins from 50 days to three days before Election Day in the 46 states that offer it. Minnesota and South Carolina do not use vote centers for Election Day, while Arkansas and North Dakota do. Also included in this section are state policies on ballot return, including who can return a voted ballot, drop box permittance, ballot cure processes, timelines for processing ballots and electronic ballot return.


This section showcases state audit policies and primary types. Almost all states use some form of preelection audit or logic and accuracy testing, and all but two states use some form of postelection audit. As for primary types, policies range from open (any voter can participate in either party’s primary) to closed (only registered party members can vote in a party primary). In between, you can find top-two (California and Washington), top-four (Alaska), all-comers (Louisiana for some races) and nonpartisan (Nebraska) primaries.

While this project categorizes similar state policies, each state’s specific policies are more nuanced than what fits in a one-page snapshot. For more detailed information on each policy topic, refer to the EAC and the NCSL Election Resources page.

The one-page profiles hold an abundance of information on each state’s policies, and if there’s a key takeaway, it’s this: Election policy is not one size fits all. Talk with your local election officials about potential impacts of policies before making decisions about election legislation and policy.

View each state’s election profile here: State Profiles: Elections.

Katie King is a policy associate in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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