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Ballot Return Options Recommendations

Best Practices

Providing voters multiple in-person ballot return options for mail ballots is an important part of expanding voting access. Ballot return options fall into three main categories: voting location drop off (i.e. a polling place or vote center), election office drop off, and drop box drop off.

Aside from allowing voters to hand deliver their ballots to their local election offices, voters should have the opportunity to bring their mailed-out ballots to a polling place or vote center. Doing so not only gives voters more convenient return options but provides them the opportunity to receive assistance, like requesting a replacement ballot or using an assistive voting device. 

Ballot drop boxes are another accessible, convenient, and safe option for voters. With drop boxes, voters don’t need to worry about meeting postmarking deadlines or getting to an elections office before the close of business — they’re open 24/7. 

Why It's Important

  • Voter convenience. Many voters don’t own postage and are not familiar with the postal system. A common problem is that many voters unknowingly either put too little postage or none at all on their ballot return envelopes. Due to this confusion, those ballots may not be delivered and the voices of these voters go unheard.
  • Improve accessibility. Voters with disabilities or with low mobility need options when it comes to returning their ballot. Ensuring they can visit a conveniently located site to return their ballot and receive assistance is crucial.
  • Cost savings. For states that offer prepaid postage, in-person ballot return options can save the government money that would have been spent on postage.
  • Ensures the timely return of ballots. Because in-person drop-off options cut out the postal service, voters can return ballots up to election day (typically by the close of polls) and be confident that their ballot will be received and counted on time.
  • Increases trust. When they can place their ballot directly in the hands of election officials rather than mailing it in, voters may be more likely to trust that their ballot will be counted.

Relevant Research

Example Statutes

Ballot Return Options Across the US

State
Ballot Drop Box
Polling Place or Vote Center Drop Off
Local Elections Office Return
By Mail
Alabama
No
No
Yes
Yes
Alaska
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Arizona
Yes
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Arkansas
No
Local Only
Yes
Yes
California
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Connecticut
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Delaware
Yes
No
No
Yes
Florida
Yes
No
No
Yes
Georgia
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Hawaii
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Idaho
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Illinois
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Yes
Indiana
No
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Iowa
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Kansas
Yes
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Kentucky
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Louisiana
No
No
Yes
Yes
Maine
Local Only
No
Yes
Yes
Maryland
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Massachusetts
Local Only
No
Yes
Yes
Michigan
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Minnesota
Local Only
No
Yes
Yes
Mississippi
No
No
No
Yes
Missouri
No
No
No
Yes
Montana
Drop off locations
No
Yes
Yes
Nebraska
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Nevada
Yes
Local Only
Yes
Yes
New Hampshire
Drop off locations
No
Yes
Yes
New Jersey
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
New Mexico
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
New York
No
No
Yes
Yes
North Carolina
No
No
Yes
Yes
North Dakota
Yes
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Ohio
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Oregon
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Pennsylvania
Local Only
No
Yes
Yes
Rhode Island
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
South Carolina
No
No
Yes
Yes
South Dakota
No
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Tennessee
No
Local Only
No
Yes
Texas
No
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Utah
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Yes
Vermont
Local Only
No
Yes
Yes
Virginia
Yes
Local Only
Yes
Yes
Washington
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Washington, D.C.
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
West Virginia
No
No
Yes
Yes
Wisconsin
No
No
Yes
Yes
Wyoming
No
Local Only
Yes
Yes

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