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Early voting: When it starts in your state

With just over two weeks to go until Election Day, most states already have some form of early voting in place, while a few others will begin early voting this week. Here's what you need to know about voting early in your state. 

States that allow early voting

Early voting is exactly what it sounds like: an option that allows people to vote before Election Day. And although early voting has its detractors, a majority of states now embrace the practice.

In 2018, the only states that don't allow for some kind of early voting are Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. The other 38 states and the District of Columbia all allow some form of early voting.

Of the states that allow early voting, 34 of them will allow citizens to cast early ballots, with many allowing voters to cast ballots in September or early October. According to Ballotpedia, here are the states, by early voting start date:

Monday, October 22

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Texas

October 24

  • West Virginia

October 25

  • Maryland

October 26

  • District of Columbia

November 1

  • Florida

Note that some counties may allow for early voting before the rest of the state does. In Florida, for example, early voting began in many counties on Monday. States may also allow for mail-in ballots before in-person voting begins. For a more detailed look at where, when, and how you can vote in your district, check out the U.S. Vote Foundation.

How to vote early in your state

Laws governing early voting vary from state to state. In Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, everyone votes by mail. In the other states that allow early voting, it can be done in person.

For a detailed look at how early voting happens in your state, head over to the National Conference of State Legislatures' guide to state laws governing early voting.

What the early voting is telling us

Early voting is already giving us some indication of what the Election Day returns might look like. In Texas, for example, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday that a "shocking" number of people were turning out, creating "a scene that looked more like a Black Friday shopping morning" in the Lone Star State's most populous city. And given Houston's Democratic lean, the long lines could bode well for Rep. Beto O'Rourke and his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

In Florida, where early voting began in some counties on Monday, nearly a million people have already voted via mail-in ballots, according to the Orlando Sun Sentinel. In 2014, the Sentinel points out,1.8 million voted in the entire midterm elections. Florida has competitive races for governor and U.S. senator, and with Democratic chances largely dependent on turning out voters who normally sit out the midterms, a big rush to the polls might be a boon to Democrats' chances.

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