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Early voting

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Title: Early voting  
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Subject: Voting, Election Day voter registration, Voting rights in the United States, New Zealand general election, 2014, Election Day (United States)
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Early voting

Early voting is the process by which electors can vote on a single or series of days prior to an election. Early voting can take place remotely, such as by mail, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary based on jurisdiction and type of election. The goal of early voting is usually to increase participation and relieve congestion of polling stations on the election day.

An advance poll is held in some elections to allow participation by voters who may not be able to vote on the set election day(s). This may include people who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, adherents to religious commitments, among others.

As unconditional (no excuse) early voting legally has gained ground during recent years, voices have been raised against it as seriously damaging to the democratic process.[1][2]


  • In individual jurisdictions 1
    • Australia 1.1
    • Canada 1.2
    • Finland 1.3
    • Germany 1.4
    • Ireland 1.5
    • Malta 1.6
    • New Zealand 1.7
    • Norway 1.8
    • Sweden 1.9
    • Switzerland 1.10
    • Thailand 1.11
    • United States 1.12
      • District of Columbia 1.12.1
      • Florida 1.12.2
      • Georgia 1.12.3
      • Maryland 1.12.4
      • Other states 1.12.5
  • References 2
  • External links 3

In individual jurisdictions


In Australia, early voting is known as pre-poll voting. However, to cast an early vote a voter must already be registered.


In Canada, early voting is known as advance polling. It is offered to all voters in all federal, provincial, and most municipal elections. In federal elections, voters do not need to be registered in order to vote at an advance poll provided they are carrying proof of identity and address, or bring a registered voter who will swear an oath of identification at the polling station on their behalf.


Finland and Sweden have similar early voting systems. The only distinction is that Finland uses post offices as early voting stations.


In Germany, most eligible voters are required to register their place of residence and receive a Wahlbenachrichtigung (notification of election) by 3 weeks before an election to the Bundestag, which also contains a postal vote application form. It is possible to cast one's vote directly at the office that handles the application, i.e. the municipal government.

The requirement for an excuse has been removed in 2008,[3] but it was just an abstract assurance before that never has been validated. 19% of all voters voted early in 2005.[4]

Rules for the elections in the states of Germany and on county and municipal level are very similar.

Germans living abroad may register and vote through mail for Bundestag elections and European Parliament elections, but not for state and local elections.


It is common for voters on the remote coastal islands to vote in the few days prior to the election, in case bad weather impeded voting on the official day.


Malta introduced early voting in 2009 for general and European Parliament elections. The system was first used in the 2009 election of Members of the European Parliament. Elections in Malta are held over one day, on a Saturday. Electors who would be outside the country on the day and who are ready to take an oath to this effect, may vote one week beforehand at the premises of the Electoral Commission.

New Zealand

Early voting, or advance voting, has been possible in New Zealand without a reason since 2008. Advance voting opens on the Wednesday 17 days before the election day, with around 300 polling booths set up across the country.[5] Voters attending an appropriate advance polling booth for their electorate can cast an ordinary vote in the same way they would do if voting on election day. If the voter is outside their electorate, enrolled after the cutoff date (i.e. 31 days before election day), or is on the unpublished roll, they must cast a special vote.

In the 2011 election, 334,600 advance votes were cast, representing 14.7% of all votes cast.[5]


In Norway early voting is known as "forhåndsstemming". At the general election of 2009, 707,489 Norwegians voted in advance. This was 200 000 more than the previous record, set in 2001.[6]


Early polling station in a supermarket in Malmö during the European Parliament election 2009

Sweden has traditionally a high participation in elections and tries to make it as easy as possible to vote. No registration is needed since everyone is generally registered with a home address. Normally, a voter should vote on the election day in their specified polling station. But everyone can vote during the last week at an early polling station, anywhere in the country. These places are usually municipality owned places like libraries. Also on the election day, some of them are open even though the election day always is a Sunday. In hospitals and homes for the elderly, there are special voting opportunities. In elections until 1998, post offices were used for several decades as early voting stations (post offices now belong to a commercial company, earlier on a national administration). Swedes living abroad must register their address and can vote at embassies or through mail. [7]

The early votes are transported to the voter's polling station in double envelopes. On election day, a voter can vote at his or her polling station. Before the early vote is counted, officials check if the voter has voted at the polling station. If that is the case, the vote is destroyed with the inner envelope unopened. Early votes that don't reach the polling station in time are transported to the County Administrative Board and counted if the voter hasn't already voted. [8]


Swiss federal law allows postal voting in all federal elections and referenda,[9] and all cantons also allow it for cantonal ballot issues. All voters receive their personal ballot by mail a few weeks before the election or referendum. They may either cast it at a polling station on election day or mail it back at any prior time.


In Thailand, early voting is known as เลือกตั้งล่วงหน้า (advance voting). It is available since 1997 Constitution of Thailand and offered both inside and outside constituency, especially for migrant workers and students, to all voters at central polling places, mostly at the registered district offices, for MP elections and Thai constitutional referendum, 2007. Eligible voters are required to register at district offices (which they are closest to) and receive a reply notification. For advance voting outside constituency, voters must register before election day not less than 30 days. No need to register if voter has registered for latest election. But if voters would like to go back and vote at original constituency (according to house registration), they must apply for register cancellation. Thais living abroad may also register at embassies or consulates and vote through mail or at the embassies or consulates prior to election day.

Early voting day is same as election day, voters must carrying proof of identity, even expired is valid. Election Commission uses post offices send constituency ballots from other constituencies and abroad to original constituencies. They will be counted with election day constituency ballots.

Early voting in 2011 general election was arranged on Sunday (26 June 2011) only while prior elections arranged on Saturday and Sunday. Around 2.6 million people including 1.07 million in Bangkok turned up to vote; however, many potential voters were unable to vote due to large crowds.[10] Voters who did not vote on early voting day still can vote at their original constituencies on election day.

United States

No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of September, 2014.
  in-person and postal
  in-person only
  postal only

Early voting is similar to "no-excuse" absentee voting. In many U.S. states the period varies between four and fifty days prior to Election Day. Early voting in person is allowed with no excuse required in 33 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia (D.C.). Absentee voting by mail with no excuse is allowed in 27 states and D.C.. In 20 states, an excuse is required. No-excuse permanent absentee voting is allowed in 6 states and in D.C.. 3 states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, conduct all elections by mail.[11]

History of early voting in U.S. presidential elections
Year Early votes Source
2008 30.6% [12]
2004 22%
2000 16% [13]
1992 7% [12]

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia required an excuse for early voting and absentee voting until its primary election on September 14, 2010. Early voting for the D.C. primary began on August 30, 2010.[14]



officially began early voting in 2004 as part of post-2000 election reform.

Turnout for early voting exceeded one million in 2004. There were some problems: first day computer failures in Orange County and Broward County; accidentally-erased votes in Volusia County; and a lack of early voting sites in Jacksonville. Reforms are being discussed to address the known issues, as well as possibly eliminating the standard poll in favor of modified early voting.


In the 159 county election offices (where "advance" voting is also available). There is no voting the day before election day.


Early voting in Rockville, Maryland

In August 2006, a judge ruled in favor of several plaintiffs that the state constitution permitted voting only on the day of the election. The plaintiffs were challenging a new early-voting law on the probability of fraud. Absentee ballots appear to remain acceptable for the time being.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November 2008 to allow early voting starting with the primary elections in 2010. Maryland now offers both early voting in person and absentee voting by mail.[15]

Other states

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides up-to-date tables of summary and detailed outlines of each state's laws, as well as links to the relevant Codes and Statutes.[11]

Sign indicating an early/absentee voting station in Fairfax County, Virginia


  1. ^ The Week 2012-09-25
  2. ^ PoliticoMagazine 2014-01-28
  3. ^ "Wahlrecht – News – Briefwahl nun ohne Hinderungsgrund möglich". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  4. ^ Der Bundeswahlleiter: Wahl zum 16. Deutschen Bundestag am 18. September 2005, Heft 5: Textliche Auswertung der Wahlergebnisse, page 38, table 15 (in German)
  5. ^ a b Cheng, Derek (3 September 2014). "In early to make your vote count - from today". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "707 489 har forhåndsstemt". 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  7. ^ Valmyndigheten: Voting
  8. ^ Valmyndigheten: Förtidsrösta i Sverige
  9. ^ Federal Statute on Political Rights , SR/RS 161.1 (E·D·F·I), art. 8 (E·D·F·I)
  10. ^ "Large crowds for advance voting". The Nation (Thailand) (Bangkok). 27 June 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Absentee and Early Voting. National Conference of State Legislatures.
  12. ^ a b Michael McDonald (2010-05-01). "(Nearly) Final 2008 Early Voting Statistics". Department of Public and International Affairs,  
  13. ^ "A third of electorate could vote before Nov. 4". By Stephen Ohlemacher and Julie Pace. Sep 21, 2008. Associated Press. Article copies: [3] [4].
  14. ^ See DC ST § 1-1001.09, searchable link at
  15. ^ "Early Voting". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 

External links

  • Early Voting Information Center at Reed College
  • Early voting calendar provided by Long Distance Voter
  • Florida Statute 101.657
  • MSNBC Report on the start of Early Voting in 2004
  • Can I Vote? | Find Out If You Are Registered to Vote. - "This nonpartisan web site was created by state election officials to help eligible voters figure out how and where to go vote." Also, early and absentee voting info by state. Check also whether you are registered or not.
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