Absentee Voting Trends

I’ve been assembling some data on the percentage of voters across the states who vote early, before Election Day.  I’m calling them all absentee voters here, but early voting and absentee voting are technically different.  Still, pre-Election Day voting, in whatever form, is on the rise.  Here is a primer on early voting laws across the states.  Below, I show each state (and Washington, DC) and the percentage of votes cast before Election Day.  The graph covers the period between 1992 and 2018; the 2018 numbers are the estimate of each state’s early voting total.  (Final numbers will become available in the coming months.)  The thick black line is the average early voting total in each cycle across the states.

Early voting now constitutes over one-third of all ballots cast.  This includes the ~100 percent early voting in mail-in states: Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.  What’s fascinating today is the wide range of early voting laws across the states.  Some make voting early very hard; some make it very easy; and some make it essentially mandatory with mail-in ballots.  In recent years, the range of early voting rates across states has grown considerably.  This is federalism in practice.


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