According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in-person early voting opportunities lead to shorter Election Day lines; expanded opportunities to identify and solve registration errors; and above all, a better, more accessible voter experience.

The opportunity for voters to cast ballots in person prior to Election Day has played a pivotal role in recent U.S. electoral outcomes. Prior to the 2008 election, the demographic and partisan breakdown of early voters tracked those of Election Day voters fairly closely; in 2008, however, this changed. In that election, Hispanic voters increased their usage of in-person early voting to match white voters at 17 percent, while 24 percent of African American voters cast early ballots. By the Wednesday prior to Election Day, 27 percent of all registered voters had cast ballots, including 36 percent of African American voters.

Since 2011, eight states have passed laws that cut back early voting, either by limiting the number of days or restricting the hours in which voters can vote early. Many of these cuts are to evening and weekend hours, when minority voters are more likely to cast ballots. According to a 2008 study of Ohio voting, of the weekend voters in Cuyahoga County—the most populous of Ohio’s 88 counties—56 percent were African American.

Three states—Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—conduct all elections by mail, with varying options for early voting. Because all of these states provide opportunities for voters to cast ballots before Election Day—whether by in-person early voting or by dropping off a mail ballot—this report fully credits these states for their availability of in-person early voting.

For a more detailed explanation of each factor, including citations, please download the full report.

Click to view scoring methodology
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State has a vote-by-mail system
    0 points
  3. State has passed a law allowing for in-person early voting, including requiring polling locations to provide opportunities to vote on the weekend
    0 points
  4. State has passed a law allowing for in-person early voting, but does not require polling locations to provide opportunities to vote on the weekend
    5 points
  5. State has not passed a law allowing for in-person early voting
    10 points
Policy Recommendation for This Factor
Expand in-person early voting, including evening and weekend hours

Nationwide, there has been a concerted attack on in-person early voting hours—with a particular focus on evening and weekend hours, the hours most likely to be used by Communities of Color and by voters who do not have the luxury of leaving work to vote during daytime hours. To eliminate this clear barrier to participation for already disadvantaged voters, states should reverse cuts to early voting, expand early voting days and hours whenever possible, and ensure ample evening and weekend voting hours.

Click here to see a full list of policy recommendations to improve the health of state democracies based on the findings of this report.

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