A State-by-State Guide to Voting by Mail in the 2020 Election

Rachel Epstein
·21 mins read

From Marie Claire

By now, you're probably familiar with mail-in voting, which has become a safer alternative to voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, President Trump continuously attempts to delegitimize the practice by stating that mail-in voting is synonymous with voter fraud. (There is no evidence that confirms this.) Additionally, the Trump administration is refusing to fund the U.S. Postal Servicethe government agency that's responsible for ensuring our ballots arrive safely and on time.

The president's rhetoric has caused confusion about absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, which are essentially the same thing. (For the record, President Trump has utilized absentee voting this year.) In states like Georgia and Connecticut, all voters can request to have an absentee ballot sent to them (some states, like Texas and Indiana, require an excuse and don't allow COVID-19 to be one of them). Other states, like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, automatically send mail-in ballots to all of their registered voters, which is classified as mail-in voting or universal mail-in voting. Each state has different rules, and some of the states have changed their rules temporarily amid the pandemic—allowing voters to cite fear of contracting COVID-19 as an excuse to request an absentee ballot.

That said, between the unpredictability of the pandemic that has claimed more than 170,000 U.S. lives and the unknown future of the U.S. Postal Service, it's important to register to vote now and request your mail-in ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020, as soon as possible. If you're able to safely vote in person, great, but nobody should have to choose between their health and their vote. To learn more about your state's vote-by-mail rules and how to request a mail-in ballot for the 2020 election, click directly on your state, below. We'll continue to update this article as new information surfaces.

Tip: Make sure to double check whether or not you need to submit additional materials, like a copy of your ID, with your absentee or mail-in ballot request form.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Alabama

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Due to the State of Emergency issued by the Governor of Alabama on March 13, 2020, all eligible voters who don't feel comfortable voting in person can request an absentee ballot and check the "I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls." You can read more on that here.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Alaska

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Arizona

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Arkansas

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Due to COVID-19, "qualified electors who conclude their attendance at the poll raises concerns to their health or the health of others as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be therefore unavoidably absent from the polls, may request and submit an absentee ballot. You can learn more here.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

California

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-64-20, which orders that a vote-by-mail ballot be mailed to each voter prior to the November 3, 2020 election in addition to offering in person voting locations. If your address has recently changed, make sure to update your voter registration as soon as possible to make sure your election materials reach you.

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Colorado

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. The state has been conducting universal mail-in voting before the COVID-19 pandemic. If your address has recently changed, make sure to update your voter registration as soon as possible to make sure your election materials reach you.

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Connecticut

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill's website, "All voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot in the general election held on November 3, 2020 due to the COVID-19, pursuant to Public Act 20-03 July Spec. Sess. Just check the COVID-19 box on the application."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Delaware

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Per the governor's order, voters can check off "I am sick, or physically disabled" on the absentee ballot application if they don't feel comfortable going to the polls due to COVID-19.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Florida

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? The Florida Division of Elections does not give a clear answer on its website, nor is there a clear answer on Governor Ron DeSantis' website (his COVID-19 executive order does not have explicit directions about mail-in voting). What we do know is that Floridians can search for their county's website here to request their mail-in ballot and eventually track it.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Georgia

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Hawaii

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. According to Hawaii's Office of Elections, "The State of Hawaii passed Act 136, SLH 2019, implementing elections by mail beginning with the 2020 Elections. All properly registered voters will automatically receive a mail ballot packet approximately 18 days prior to the election." If your address has recently changed, make sure to update your voter registration as soon as possible to make sure your election materials reach you.

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Idaho

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Illinois

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Indiana

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. There are no COVID-19-related exceptions. You need to meet one of the following requirements to vote by mail:

  • You have a specific, reasonable expectation that you will be absent from the county on Election Day during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open (6 a.m. until 6 p.m.).

  • You have a disability.

  • You are at least 65 years of age.

  • You will have official election duties outside of your voting precinct.

  • You are scheduled to work at your regular place of employment during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.

  • You will be confined due to illness or injury or you will be caring for an individual confined due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.

  • You are prevented from voting because of a religious discipline or religious holiday during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.

  • You are a participant in the state's address confidentiality program.

  • You are a member of the military or a public safety officer.

  • You are a "serious sex offender" as defined in Indiana Code 35-42-4-14(a).

  • You are prevented from voting due to the unavailability of transportation to the polls.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Iowa

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Kansas

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Kentucky

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes. However, the Board of Elections does not currently have any information available on its website about how to vote by mail or where to download an absentee ballot request form. The Absentee Voting FAQs are blank, and there is no "Absentee Ballot Request" as the website suggests. The online portal to request a ballot will reportedly launch on August 21. You can read an official press release from Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams on mail-in voting here.

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to the press release mentioned above, "Any voter of any age or health condition who believes he or she is at risk from COVID-19 may vote absentee ballot. Eligibility to vote absentee also extends to voters who are in contact with such vulnerable voters."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Louisiana

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. The state is reportedly not granting voters the same COVID-19 exceptions it did in the primary elections. You need to meet one of the requirements to vote by mail that can be found here.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Maine

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Maryland

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Massachusetts

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Michigan

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to the website of Michigan's Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, "Due to the passage of the statewide ballot proposal 18-3, all eligible and registered voters in Michigan may now request an absent voter ballot without providing a reason."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Minnesota

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. Although Minnesota does not require its voters to be registered before requesting an absentee ballot, you should still make sure you're registered to vote so your ballot will be counted.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Mississippi

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. The ACLU and the Mississippi Center for Justice recently sued the state of Mississippi over its mail-in voting laws, stating voters should be able to cite COVID-19 as an excuse to vote absentee in the 2020 election.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Missouri

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Montana

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Nebraska

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No. However, three counties in Nebraska—Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster—are reportedly planning to automatically send their voters absentee ballot request forms. It's not yet clear whether or not the forms will be sent out statewide.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Nevada

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. The state will send mail-in ballots to all active voters. However, the Trump campaign is reportedly suing the state over its mail-in ballot plan. You may want to still request a mail-in ballot just in case, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

New Hampshire

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. According to the state's website, "Concern over COVID-19 has been deemed a disability for the 2020 elections to meet the requirements of our state constitution for absentee voting."

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

New Jersey

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All registered voters are expected to receive a ballot beginning on October 5 along with a prepaid return envelope. However, the Trump campaign is reportedly suing the state over its mail-in ballot plan. You may want to still request a mail-in ballot just in case, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

New Mexico

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

New York

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign legislation granting COVID-19 as an excuse to vote by mail. Currently, you must meet one of the following requirements to vote by mail:

  • Absent from your county or, if a resident of New York City absent from said city, on Election Day.

  • Unable to appear at the polls due to temporary or permanent illness or disability; or because you are the primary care giver of one or more individuals who are ill or physically disabled.

  • A resident or patient of a Veterans Health Administration Hospital.

  • Detained in jail awaiting Grand Jury action or confined in prison after conviction for an offense other than a felony.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

North Carolina

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No. Beware of potential scams and make sure you're sending in the official absentee ballot request form found on the state's website, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

North Dakota

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Ohio

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Oklahoma

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Oregon

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All registered voters receive a ballot two to three weeks before every election.

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Pennsylvania

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? It's complicated. Pennsylvania requires voters to make a distinction between requesting a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot. Per the state's guidelines, all registered voters can apply for a mail-in ballot without an excuse, but registered voters who fall into certain categories found here need to check off an excuse to receive an absentee ballot.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Rhode Island

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

South Carolina

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. Voters must meet one of the requirements below to request an absentee ballot:

  • Members of the Armed Forces (click here for additional information)

  • Members of the Merchant Marine (click here for additional information)

  • Spouses and dependents residing with members of the Armed Forces or Merchant Marine (click here for additional information)

  • Persons serving with the American Red Cross or with the United Service Organizations (USO) who are attached to and serving with the Armed Forces outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them (click here for additional information)

  • Citizens residing overseas (click here for additional information)

  • Persons who are physically disabled (includes illnesses and injuries)

  • Students attending school outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them

  • Persons who for reasons of employment will not be able to vote on election day

  • Government employees serving outside their county of residence on Election Day and their spouses and dependents residing with them

  • Persons who plan to be on vacation outside their county of residence on Election Day

  • Persons serving as a juror in state or federal court on Election Day

  • Persons admitted to the hospital as emergency patients on Election Day or within a four-day period before the election

  • Persons with a death or funeral in the family within three days before the election

  • Persons confined to a jail or pre-trial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial

  • Persons attending sick or physically disabled persons

  • Certified poll watchers, poll managers, and county election officials working on Election Day

  • Persons sixty-five years of age or older

  • Persons who for religious reasons do not want to vote on a Saturday (Presidential Primaries Only)

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

South Dakota

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Tennessee

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. You must meet one of the certain requirements found here to vote by mail.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Texas

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? Yes. To be eligible to vote by mail in Texas, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Be 65 years or older

  • Be disabled

  • Be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance

  • Be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Utah

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. If you are an active registered voter you will automatically receive a ballot in the mail.

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Vermont

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. A recent bill passed by Vermont's legislature requires ballots to be sent to all registered voters.

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Virginia

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Washington

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All ballots are mailed to registered voters at least 18 days before each election.

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Washington, D.C.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? Yes. All active registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot at their registered address beginning the first week in October. If you want your ballot sent to a different location, you'll need to fill out the absentee ballot request form.

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West Virginia

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No. You can cite concerns about COVID-19 as an excuse.

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Wisconsin

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No, but the state will automatically send an absentee ballot request form to all registered voters. If you don't want to wait for the form, you can request a mail-in ballot on your own, below.

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

Wyoming

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Can I Vote by Mail? Yes

Do I Need an Excuse to Vote by Mail? No

Does My State Automatically Send a Ballot to Me? No

REQUEST A MAIL-IN BALLOT

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