Are You Still Eligible to Early Vote?

Early voters wait to cast their ballots in Washington, D.C., on Friday. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
Early voters wait to cast their ballots in Washington, D.C., on Friday. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Last week President Obama made history yet again.

"This is the first time a president's ever early voted; it's pretty exciting," Obama told NBC News in Chicago recently as he cast his ballot in person before Election Day.


To attract more citizens to the polls, both he and Republican opponent Mitt Romney have been encouraging Americans to cast their ballots early for some time. And while 15 states, including New York and battleground Pennsylvania, don't allow this practice, in places like Texas and Maryland, people began the 2012 presidential election weeks ago.

According to Colorlines voting expert Brentin Mock, whether a state offers early voting often depends on the government's party lines.

"Democrat governments and secretaries of state tend to institute early voting, and Republicans don't," Mock told The Root. "Once early voting has been made law, it's hard to take away without it looking partisan, so Republican governors and secretaries of state in states with early voting will try to restrict hours instead, as is the case in Ohio and Florida."

Early voting is an option in 32 states as well as Washington, D.C. This description includes absentee ballots, mailed in with or without excuse. If a state requires an excuse, this means a person must explain why he or she would not be able to reach the polls on Election Day. New Jersey is the only state that allows no-excuse absentee ballots but no early voting.

To learn if your state has early voting, which may end on Friday, Nov. 2, or continue in some places on Saturday, Nov. 3, check your state's Board of Elections website. Websites like the Long Distance Voter have a wealth of information, listed by state, regarding how and where to cast your ballot ahead of Election Day. Voters can also search "where to vote" on Google, and a prompt should appear delineating not only where you should vote by location but also the names that will appear on your local ballot, separated by political parties and offices.

However, in states along the Eastern Seaboard, Hurricane Sandy's aftermath might affect early voting results.


"The storm's impact on early voting is certainly going to affect voters of color disproportionately more relative to other populations," Jon Rogowski, a political scientist at Washington University at St. Louis, told Colorlines

Ultimately, more than 46 million people are expected to vote early this year, according to NBC News. These numbers are much higher than those posted during the 2008 presidential election, and much of that is the result of get-out-the-vote campaigns working to circumvent voter disenfranchisement, suppression and confusion brought on by vacillating voter-ID laws, some of which have been overturned in states such as Pennsylvania.


Here's hoping the states without early voting will join the newly popular bandwagon and turn Election Day into what Mos Def described in a 2008 Rock the Vote clip as "a bonanza."

Hillary Crosley is The Root's New York City bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter.