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Early voting is the process by which voters can cast their vote on a single or series of days prior to an election. Early voting can take place remotely, such as by mail, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary based on jurisdiction and type of election. The goal of early voting is usually to increase participation and relieve congestion of polling stations on Election Day.

An advance poll (also "advance voting") is held in some elections to allow participation by voters who may not be able to vote on the set election day(s). This may include people who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, among others.


In individual jurisdictions



In Australia, early voting is known as pre poll voting. However, to cast an early vote a voter must already be registered.


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 in order to vote at an advance poll provided they are 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.


In Germany, most eligible voters are required to register their place of residence and receive a Wahlbenachrichtigung (notification of election) by 3 weeks before an election to the Bundestag, which also contains a postal vote application form. It is possible to cast one's vote directly at the office that handles the application, i.e. the municipal government.

The requirement for an excuse has been removed in 2008[1], but it was just an abstract assurance before, that never has been validated. 19% of all voters voted early in 2005.[2]

Germans living abroad may register and vote through mail, provided they had their place of residence in Germany sometime after 1949 (there have been shorter terms in the past). Rules for the elections in the states of Germany are similar.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, early voting is a form of special voting, which allows voters who will be outside their electorate or incapacitated on election day to vote in advance or at another polling place.


Early polling station in a supermarket in Malmö during the European Parliament election 2009

Sweden has traditionally a high participation in elections, and tries to make it as easy as possible to vote. No registration is needed since everyone is registered with a home address. Normally a voter should vote on the election day in their specified polling station. But everyone can vote during the last week at an early polling station, anywhere in the country. These places are usually municipality owned places like libraries. Also on the election day some of them are open, even though the election day always is a Sunday. In hospitals and homes for elderly there are special voting opportunities. In elections until year 1998, post officies were used for several decades as early voting stations. Swedes living abroad must register their address and can vote at embassies or through mail.


Swiss federal law allows postal voting in all federal elections and referenda,[3] and all cantons also allow it for cantonal ballot issues. All voters receive their personal ballot by mail a few weeks before the election or referendum. They may either cast it at a polling station on election day or mail it back at any prior time.

United States

No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of September 2007.      in-person and postal      in-person only      postal only      none

Early voting is similar to "no-excuse" absentee voting. In many U.S. states the period varies between four and fifty days prior to Election Day. Early voting in person is allowed with no excuse required in 31 U.S. states, with an excuse in 3, and not at all in 16. Absentee voting by mail is allowed in 28 states, with an excuse in 22. No-excuse permanent absentee voting is allowed in 4 states. Contrary to the map at left, Wisconsin allows no-excuse early voting. The District of Columbia requires an excuse for both early voting and absentee voting.[4]

22 percent of voters cast an early presidential ballot in 2004. In 2000, 16 percent voted early.[5]


The U.S. state of Florida officially began early voting in 2004 as part of post-2000 election reform.

Turnout for early voting exceeded one million in 2004. There were some problems: 1st-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 and counterintuitive 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 weekend voting when most people are off work, and there is no voting the day before election day. Both are considered to be "absentee" voting under state law, however, when done by mail a paper trail can be preserved which is very helpful in reducing canvassing fraud. No explanation is needed when voting absentee by mail simply register to vote and request an absentee ballot at the same county location or the central Atlanta location.It is recommended that you make copies of all material related to that ballot both before and after voting so that your voter rights can be protected with that evidence) Calls to extend voting through the three days prior to the election cannot be honored by the Georgia secretary of state, each county must request permission from the U.S. Department of Justice, due to the history of voting rights violations in the American South decades ago.


In August 2006, a judge ruled in favor of several plaintiffs that the state constitution only permitted voting on the day of the election. The plaintiffs were challenging a new early-voting law on the probability of fraud. Absentee ballots appear to remain acceptable for the time being.

Other states

The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College 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.[4]


  1. ^ Briefwahl nun ohne Hinderungsgrund möglich (in German)
  2. ^ Der Bundeswahlleiter: Wahl zum 16. Deutschen Bundestag am 18. September 2005, Heft 5: Textliche Auswertung der Wahlergebnisse, page 38, table 15 (in German)
  3. ^ Federal Statute on Political Rights , SR/RS 161.1 (E·D·F·I), art. 8 (E·D·F·I)
  4. ^ a b States - Absentee and Early Voting Laws. The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College.
  5. ^ "A third of electorate could vote before Nov. 4". By Stephen Ohlemacher and Julie Pace. Sep 21, 2008. Associated Press. Article copies: [1] [2].

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