6 Types of Voting Laws You Should Know

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Voting laws differ significantly by state, which leads to either an expansion or contraction of voting access that is regionally-based. Read about some of the most notable variations here.

All information is current as of October 14, 2020.

Paid Time Off to Vote

29 states enable workers to take time off to vote on Election Day and 22 that requires the time to be paid. Most states allow for a set amount of time off, usually one to three hours, while some (such as Texas and Alaska) don’t specify a time limit. Several require proof of voting in order for the employee to be paid.

States that require employers to give paid time off to vote: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming.

No-Excuse Absentee Voting

Some states require that absentee voters have one of the approved excuses, such as illness, disability, academics, or military service. The majority of states, however, have laws that allow any voter to vote absentee without an excuse.

States that allow no-excuse absentee voting: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado (mail only), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa (in-person only), Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota (in-person only), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina (in-person only), North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon (mail only), South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington (mail only), Wisconsin (mail only), Wyoming, Washington DC

All-Mail Elections

Most states allow for both in-person and mail-in (absentee) voting. The mail-in voting option is often strictly structured, with voters having to register ahead of time and fit certain requirements in order to qualify for absentee voting. However, three states conduct all elections entirely by mail and do not have any in-person polling places.

States with mail-only elections: Colorado, Oregon, Washington

Use It or Lose It

In nine states, registered voters who don’t vote for a set amount of time (often 2 years) are sent a notice. Then if they don’t respond and don’t vote for several consecutive federal election cycles, they will be removed from the list of registered voters. While these laws are controversial, they were upheld as not violating federal law in a 2018 Supreme Court decision.

States with use it or lose it voting laws: Alaska, Georgia, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia.

Automatic Voter Registration

Nineteen states have automatic voter registration, meaning that when citizens apply for or renew a driver’s license at the DMV, they also have the opportunity ro register to vote. There are several different systems that vary by state, but they generally require the person to either opt-in or opt-out.

States with automatic voter registration: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Georgia, Illinois, Maine (anticipated 2022), Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Risk-Limiting Audits

One of the types of post-election audits used in states, a risk-limiting audit is a statistically based technique that is designed to limit the risk of an incorrect election outcome while also reducing the number of ballots that need to be audited. If the margin is larger, fewer ballots will be counted, while if it’s a closer race, more ballots will be counted. Currently, 4 states require risk-limiting audits, while others offer them as an option for counties.

States that do risk limiting audits: Colorado, Nevada, Rhode Island, Virginia, Georgia (pilot), Indiana (pilot), California (option), Ohio (option), Oregon (option), and Washington (option).

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