People are already voting by mail in record numbers this year, but what happens if you planned on voting in-person, but then get sick right before Election Day? Maybe it’s COVID-19, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, you want to make sure you don’t get any of the poll workers or other voters sick (plus you probably shouldn’t be doing something as strenuous as voting in person anyway). In that case, you may need to get an emergency ballot—some version of which is available in most states. Here’s what to do if that happens to you.
First, check mail-in ballot deadlines in your state
When it comes to mail-in ballots, there are a few different deadlines to keep in mind—and yes, each state has its own timeline. In some cases, there is a deadline to request an absentee ballot, as well as other cutoffs stating the latest possible postmark on the ballot and/or the date it must be received by the local elections board. At this point, it’s pretty late in the game to request an absentee ballot, but as always, check your state’s election guidelines to find out when everything is due.
How to get an emergency ballot
If you end up getting sick past the point when you’re able to request an absentee ballot, most states give you the option of requesting some form of emergency ballot. Again, check with your state or local election office to find out what the process involves, but it’s pretty safe to assume you’re going to need to find and fill out an application of some sort (which should also be available on your state’s website).
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) states handle emergency ballots in varying ways:
38 States permit emergency absentee voting in the case of a medical emergency
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Election officials in 6 states will deliver an emergency ballot to you if you’re unable to get to the polls because of a medical emergency
Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia.
Hospitalized voters in 17 states may designate someone to request/deliver/submit their emergency ballot
Arkansas, Colorado*, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.
*Colorado mails ballots to all eligible voters, but if there is an emergency or natural disaster after the deadline by which ballots are mailed and a voter can’t get a replacement ballot in person, they may designate an authorized representative to obtain a replacement ballot on their behalf.
For full details on the regulations in your state, see the NCSL website.