NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 3, 2004

States are liberalizing their rules governing who is qualified to cast an absentee ballot. Part of the reason is to encourage voter participation by making the process more attractive, whether this means energizing citizens who regularly don't vote or those who may be deterred by the crowds:

  • At least 24 states allow anyone to mail in an absentee ballot, for any reason.
  • At least 16 states open the doors to actual polling places for several days prior to Election Day.
  • Election Day and this figure is expected to be higher this year.
  • The Internet is increasingly becoming a useful tool in handling absentee ballots.

But not everyone has a legal right to vote in advance. Some states put limits on who can request absentee ballots by mail. Usually the list of accepted excuses includes people who are elderly, disabled or hospitalized. It also typically includes people who are living outside the country, in the military, or working at a polling place that isn't their own.

The one excused absence that raises the most questions -- and inspires the most creativity -- is travel. For years, an uncountable number of people have fibbed on their form, counting on the fact that the local officials are far too busy on the big day to call around to see whether people are really in Bermuda. (Some states make deception a little more tricky. Tennessee, for example, demands an out-of-the-area address to send a ballot to.)

Source: Ron Lieber, "Cast a Ballot From the Couch: Absentee Voting Gets Easier," Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB109407427870207237-search,00.html


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