Can I vote in person if I’ve already requested an absentee ballot?

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way many people think about elections. Prior to 2020, most voters cast their ballot by going to a polling place on election day. In November, however, more voters than ever before will be receiving a mail ballot proactively or by request. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia will be mailing a ballot to all active voters, and most states allow all voters to request one if they’d like. Other states will be allowing all voters to apply for an absentee ballot, using the COVID-19 pandemic, age, disability status or other circumstances as a viable “excuse” to receive a ballot by mail.

If you receive a mail ballot, either because you requested it or because your state sent one automatically, do you have to fill it out and send it back? The short answer in nearly all states is no. The National Vote at Home Institute has determined, through a review of statutes and conversations with employees in state election offices, that even if you have received an absentee ballot, you can still cast a ballot on election day at a polling place in all states except Kentucky.

We have categorized states by three different factors that we have posed as questions.

  1. First, can you vote a ballot in person if you’ve requested an absentee ballot?
  2. Second, is the ballot a normal ballot or a provisional ballot? Note, a provisional ballot is a ballot that will only be counted later, if it is confirmed that an absentee ballot was not received from the same voter. Voters voting a provisional ballot might not be able to vote on all races/issues found on a normal ballot.
  3. Finally, can you vote early if you’ve already requested an absentee ballot?

While there is no hard and fast rule for what your state’s policy is, there are a few general guidelines. The first is that if your state allows early voting, typically you can vote early even if you have requested an absentee ballot. The second is that if you have received your absentee ballot but plan not to vote it, bring your absentee ballot to the polling place. This makes it much easier for election officials, who can then void, or “spoil”, your ballot. In some states, if you do not bring your ballot, you may have to vote a provisional ballot as opposed to a normal one.

The main outlier to these general guidelines is Kentucky. According to an emergency administrative regulation issued in Kentucky on August 20, 2020 (31 KAR 4:192E), voters may cast a normal ballot in person on election day only if they have not received their absentee ballot by October 28, 2020. If a voter receives an absentee ballot before that date, they must vote that ballot.

The map provided outlines that status of voting in person after requesting a mail ballot in all fifty states, as of October 1, 2020. Check the map to find out what the policy is in your state, however remember to always contact your local election officials with any questions, they know best!

The National Vote at Home Institute is a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on expanding and implementing vote at home and mail options in all 50 states.