Early voting, also called advance polling or pre-poll voting, is a convenience voting process by which voters in a public election can vote before a scheduled election day. Early voting can take place remotely, such as via postal voting, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary among jurisdictions and types of election. The goals of early voting are usually to increase voter participation and relieve congestion at polling stations on election day.
|Part of the Politics series|
|Voting patterns and effects|
The categories of people who vote early include those who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, and adherents to religious commitments, among others.
The numbers of voters who vote early has increased in recent years. As unconditional (no excuse) early voting has gained ground, some critics have condemned the process as damaging to the democratic process.
In Australia, where voting is compulsory, early voting is usually known as "pre-poll voting." Voters are able to cast a pre-poll vote for a number of reasons, including being away from the electorate, travelling, impending maternity, being unable to leave one's workplace, having religious beliefs that prevent attendance at a polling place, or being more than 8 km from a polling place . There were over 600 early voting centres available in 2016.
At the 2019 Australian federal election, 6.1 million votes were cast early (including postal votes), equating to 40.7 percent of total votes cast. This represented an increase from 26.4 percent at the 2013 election and 13.7 percent at the 2007 election. Following the 2019 elections, members of the parliamentary standing committee on electoral matters expressed concern about the length of the pre-poll voting period, suggesting that it was imposing costs on both the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and political parties, and that electors voting too early may be unable to respond to developments in the final weeks of the election campaign.
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 to vote at an advance poll, provided they are either 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.
There are advance polling stations for all eligible voters in Finnish embassies and in municipal offices, libraries, post-offices, etc. determined by the municipalities.
In every municipality there is at least one advance polling station.
There are special advance polling stations in hospitals, prisons, and some other institutions where only the patients or prisoners may vote. In addition, people may vote in advance at home if their ability to move or function is so reduced that they are unable to come to an advance polling station or a polling station on election day, i.e. an election official comes to them to receive their vote.
The crew of Finnish ships abroad may vote in advance on board the ship. Advance voting on ships can already begin on the 18th day before election day.
The possibility to vote by post was introduced in Finland in the parliamentary elections of 2019. Eligible voters living permanently abroad and eligible voters staying abroad at the time of the elections have the right to vote by post in general elections. An eligible voter wishing to vote by post orders the postal voting documents to an address abroad, casts his or her vote, and sends the vote back to Finland to the central municipal election board of his or her municipality.
All eligible voters in Germany automatically receive an election notification with a postal vote application form (Wahlbenachrichtigung). The notification is sent at least three weeks before a parliamentary election (Bundestag). It is possible to cast one's vote directly at the municipal government office that handles the application. Only voters living abroad must actively register.
The rules for voting in the German federal state, county, and municipal elections are very similar. Germans living abroad may register and vote via mail in Bundestag elections and European Parliament elections but not in federal state and local elections.
In the Republic of Ireland, it is traditional for voters on the remote coastal islands to vote on the day prior to the official date of the election. This aims to avoid the possibility that bad weather might impede the delivery of ballot boxes to the count center on the mainland. However, the practice is not universally popular.
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 Saturday. Electors who would be outside the country on the day and are ready to take an oath to that effect may vote one week beforehand, at the premises of the Electoral Commission.
Early voting, or advance voting, has been possible in New Zealand without a reason since 2008. Advance voting opens 12 days before the election day, with around 500 polling booths set up across the country. Voters attending an appropriate advance polling booth for their electorate (constituency) can cast an ordinary vote in the same way they would if voting on election day. If the voter is outside the electorate, enrolled after the cutoff date (31 days before election day), or is on the unpublished roll, they must cast a special vote.
In Norway early voting is known as "forhåndsstemming". At the general election of 2009, 707,489 Norwegians voted in advance, 200 000 more than the previous record, in 2001.
In Russia, early voting, according to the decision of the election commission, can be organized in special poll stations formed in remote and hard-to-reach areas, on ships that will be sailing on election day and at polar stations. At the same time, early voting can be held no earlier than twenty days before the election day.
In 2020, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, a law was passed allowing early voting at all polling stations. For the first time, this system was used in the referendum on amendments to the constitution, which was held on 1 July 2020, but citizens had the opportunity to vote within a week before the main day. This was done for sanitary purposes, to reduce the number of people present at the same time at the polling stations. Later, the period of early voting was reduced to two days before the election day. Such a three-day voting was used for regional elections in September 2020. However, such a decision is not mandatory and can be made by the election commission within ten days after the election is scheduled. If the election Commission has not made such a decision, voting takes place only within one day.
Sweden has traditionally had 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 the specified polling station, but everyone can vote during the last week at an early polling station, anywhere in the country, usually municipality-owned places like libraries.
Also, on election day, some polling places are open, even though the election day is always on 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 and are no longer nationally administered). Swedes living abroad must register their address and can vote at embassies or through mail.
The early votes are transported to the voter's polling station in double envelopes. On election day, a voter can vote at the 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 early vote is destroyed, with the inner envelope unopened. Early votes that do not reach the polling station in time are transported to the County Administrative Board and counted if the voter has not already voted.
Swiss federal law allows postal voting in all federal elections and referenda, and all cantons allow it for cantonal ballot issues. All voters receive their personal ballot by mail a few weeks before the election or referendum. They may 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 has been available since the 1997 Constitution of Thailand and is offered both inside and outside the constituency, especially for migrant workers and students, to all voters at central polling places, mostly at the registered district offices, for House of Representatives of Thailand elections and referendums.
Eligible voters are required to register at district offices and receive a reply notification. For advance voting outside the constituency, voters must register not less than 30 days before election day unless the voter has registered for the latest election. Voters who would like to go back and vote at their original constituency (according to house registration) 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 the same as election day: voters must be carrying proof of identity, but it may be expired. The Election Commission uses post offices to send constituency ballots from other constituencies and abroad to original constituencies. They will be counted with election day constituency ballots.
Early voting in the 2011 Thai general election was arranged on a Sunday (June 26, 2011) while prior elections were arranged on both 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 because of large crowds. Voters who did not vote on early voting day still can vote at their original constituencies on election day.
Early voting is similar to "no-excuse" absentee voting. In many U.S. states, the period can vary between four and fifty days prior to Election Day. Early voting in person is allowed without excuse required in 33 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia (DC). Absentee voting by mail without excuse is allowed in 28 states and DC. In 20 states, an excuse is required. No-excuse permanent absentee voting is allowed in 6 states and in DC, and 3 states (Oregon, Washington and Colorado) conduct all early voting by mail.
|History of early voting in United States presidential elections|
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia allows no-excuse for both absentee and early voting. Voters may vote at any of the early voting centers located in DC, as each center has ballots for each precinct.
Turnout for early voting exceeded a 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 Georgia, "early voting" and "advance voting" have two different meanings. Voting a week early is called "advance" voting and is typically available at several locations in urban and suburban counties. Voting well in advance, up to 45 days before election day, is called "early" voting and is normally available only at the 159 county election offices (where "advance" voting is also available). There is no voting the day before election day.
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, and the state governor, argued that a new early-voting law would lead to fraud.
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.
Early voting was first used in Massachusetts for the general election of November 2016, where voters could cast ballots during the October 24 to November 4 timeframe. Over a million ballots were cast, with 22% of registered voters in the state taking advantage of early voting.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic led many states both to reduce the number of polling stations for the 2020 elections and to relax requirements for both mail-in and early voting, including mailing applications to all active registered voters and providing drop-boxes for ballots. Record numbers of early votes were cast. Following false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election by Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers initiated a push to restrict early voting.
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