An Ohio voter drops off her ballot at the Board of Elections in Dayton, Ohio, on April 28, 2020. (Megan Jelinger/AFP via Getty Images)
An Ohio voter drops off her ballot at the Board of Elections in Dayton, Ohio, on April 28, 2020. (Megan Jelinger/AFP via Getty Images)

The prospect of conducting the presidential election during a pandemic has prompted many states to reexamine their plans for how to conduct the election safely, including when it comes to access to early or absentee voting.

Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to support ‘no excuse’ early or absentee voting

About two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the option to vote early or absentee should be available to any voter without requiring a documented reason, while a third say early and absentee voting should only be allowed with a reason, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted June 16-22.

Those who say documentation should be required for absentee voting were asked if COVID-19 should be considered a documented reason. Among the public overall, 19% say documentation should be required but COVID-19 should not be a valid reason; 14% say documented reasons should be required and COVID-19 should be one of them.

How we did this

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how Americans think about absentee voting and voting policy in the country today. For this study, we surveyed 4,708 U.S. adults in June 2020. All participants of the study are members of the American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that Pew Research Center recruits through national, random sampling of residential addresses. All U.S. adults have a chance to be selected to participate in the survey. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

For analysis on state voting policy, we used data available through Ballotpedia, accessed June 17, 2020.

Here are the questions asked for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents overwhelmingly support so-called “no excuse” early or absentee voting: 83% say this. Among the small share of Democrats who do not, most say the coronavirus outbreak should qualify as a documented reason.

GOP views are more divided: 44% of Republicans and Republican leaners say no documented reason should be necessary to vote early or absentee, while 55% say one should be. Among Republicans who say a documented reason is needed, most say the coronavirus outbreak should not be considered a valid reason: 37% of all Republicans say early and absentee voting only should be allowed with a documented reason and say that COVID-19 is not an acceptable reason; 17% say a documented reason should be required, but that COVID-19 should be a valid reason.

Share of Republicans saying absentee voting should only be allowed with documentation has increased

Americans’ support for no-excuse absentee voting has decreased modestly from 71% in October 2018 to 65% today – a result of shifting views among Republicans. Today, a 55% majority of Republicans say voters should only be allowed to vote early or absentee if they have a documented reason for not voting on Election Day, up from 42% who said this in 2018.

The views of Democrats are little changed over this period.

Views about whether absentee voting should require an excuse vary little by state rules

Americans’ attitudes about no-excuse early or absentee voting differ only modestly by the current policies of their state. Those living in states that require a documented reason are somewhat more likely than those in states without such a requirement to say voters should have to provide a reason for voting early or absentee (38% vs. 31%, respectively). However, these differences are much more modest than the differences between partisans, even in states with similar absentee voting policies.

Wide partisan divide over whether changing rules makes elections less secure

Wide partisan gap over whether making voting easier affects election security

In the Center’s June survey, 60% of Americans say that changing election rules to make it easier to register and vote would not make elections any less secure, while 37% say that elections would be less secure if it were easier to register and vote. These views are little changed from 2018.

Majorities of Black, white and Hispanic Americans hold the view that making it easier to vote would not make elections any less secure, but Black Americans are especially likely to say this (70% vs. 58% among both white and Hispanic Americans).

However, there is a stark partisan divide in these views: Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats (79%) say that changes to election rules to make it easier to register and vote would not make elections any less secure, while 59% of Republicans say they would.

No excuse absentee states
States with absentee voting option

Note: Here are the questions asked for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Interreligious RelationsReligionsOther ReligionsEconomics, Work & GenderSame-Sex MarriageHomeownership & RentingSTEM Education & WorkforceDigital DivideStresses & Distraction OnlinePlatforms & ServicesEmailMedia PolarizationAmerican Trends PanelLifestyleGender & ReligionReligious ExtremismReligion & PoliticsUnited NationsMethodological ResearchElection NewsNationalismNon-U.S. GovernmentsWar & International ConflictSocial Security & MedicareImmigration IssuesRacial IntermarriageReligion & Social ValuesChristianityReligiously UnaffiliatedGender Pay GapUnmarried AdultsMiddle ClassReligion & ScienceTechnology Policy IssuesUser DemographicsInternet ConnectivityBlogsElection NewsInternational Survey MethodsDeath & DyingYounger AdultsU.S. Religious DemographicsCoronavirus Disease (COVID-19)COVID-19 & TechnologyOther TopicsWorld ElectionsPresidential ApprovalState & Local GovernmentNuclear WeaponsWorld LeadersIntegration & IdentityRace, Ethnicity & PoliticsReligion & AbortionCatholicismComparison of ReligionsGender & LeadershipParenthoodFuture of WorkScience Funding & PolicyPolitics OnlineTeens & TechSocial MediaE-ReadingPresidents & PressSurvey MethodsK-12TaxesCOVID-19 & ScienceCyberattacksRural, Urban and Suburban CommunitiesPolitical IssuesPolitical Parties & PolarizationDonald TrumpReligion & GovernmentMilitary & VeteransWorld ElectionsImmigration & Language AdoptionRacial & Ethnic GroupsBiotechOrthodox ChristianityGenerationsEducation & GenderFertilityEmployee BenefitsScience IssuesDigital News LandscapeChildren & TechMobileMedia & SocietyTrust, Facts & DemocracyTelephone SurveysHigher EducationAge, Generations & TechReligious TypologyOnline SurveysUnionsU.S. Elections & VotersPolitical PartiesAngela MerkelProtests & UprisingsDiscrimination & PrejudiceGlobal Image of CountriesCitizenshipBlack AmericansReligion & Death PenaltyProtestantismGeneration ZGender RolesRomance & DatingUnemploymentScience KnowledgeLifestyle & Relationships OnlineOlder Adults & TechEntertainmentNews Media TrendsTrust in MediaNonprobability SurveysStudent LoansBroadbandReligious CommitmentU.S. CensusPew Templeton Global Religious Futures ProjectReligionElection 2020Political PolarizationNarendra ModiParty IdentificationDrug PolicyU.S. Global ImageFamily ReunificationAsian AmericansReligion & LGBTQ AcceptanceEvangelicalismMillennialsMotherhood & FatherhoodFriendshipsGender & WorkGene EditingEducation & Learning OnlineRacial & Ethnic Groups OnlineMore Platforms & ServicesPolitics & MediaFacts & Fact CheckingVoter FilesElection 2004Media Layoffs & EmploymentPope FrancisEducation & Learning OnlineElection 2022Politics & PolicyElection 2018Political TypologyVladimir PutinPolitical AnimosityFree Speech & PressChina Global ImageLegal ImmigrationHispanics/LatinosReligious Freedom & RestrictionsPentecostalismGeneration XGender Equality & DiscriminationEconomic ConditionsGig & Sharing EconomiesClimate, Energy & EnvironmentHealthcare OnlineRural Residents & TechFacebookMedia AttitudesBots & MisinformationEducationElection 2006Religious Knowledge & EducationPope Benedict XVILeisureIsrael Global ImageInternational AffairsElection 2016Political DiscourseMore LeadersLeadersGun PolicyOrganizations, Alliances & TreatiesRefugees & Asylum SeekersHispanic/Latino DemographicsNon-Religion & SecularismMainline ProtestantismBaby BoomersSexual Misconduct & HarassmentIncome, Wealth & PovertyGovernment Spending & the DeficitFood ScienceOnline Privacy & SecurityGender & TechTwitterMisinformationAmerican News Pathways 2020 ProjectLibrariesElection 2002Educational AttainmentPope John Paul IICOVID-19 & the EconomyQualitative ResearchImmigration & MigrationElection 2014Political & Civic EngagementBill ClintonDemographics & PoliticsHealth PolicyEuropean UnionImmigration & EconomyHispanics/Latinos & LanguageReligious Leaders & InstitutionsHistorically Black ProtestantismSilent GenerationLGBTQ Attitudes & ExperiencesBusiness & WorkplaceGlobal TradeHuman EnhancementNet NeutralityEmerging TechnologySmartphonesFreedom of the PressState of the News Media (Project)Personal LifeUnauthorized ImmigrationInternational Political ValuesGlobal HealthCOVID-19 in the NewsTestRace & EthnicityElection 2012Politics & MediaGeorge W. BushGenerations, Age & PoliticsHealth CareBilateral RelationsHigh-Skilled ImmigrationHispanics/Latinos & EducationReligion & GovernmentMormonismGreatest GenerationGender IdentityEconomic PolicyRemittancesMedicine & HealthOnline Harassment & BullyingFuture of the Internet (Project)AppsNews KnowledgeTelevisionPublic KnowledgeImmigration TrendsOnline Random Sample SurveysRecessions & RecoveriesSurvey BasicsPartisanship & IssuesGenerations & AgeElection 2010Political Ideals & SystemsBarack ObamaGender & PoliticsMigration IssuesInternational IssuesVisas & EmploymentHispanics/Latinos & IncomeReligion & PoliticsJudaismComparison of GenerationsSame-Sex MarriageEconomic SystemsStudent LoansSpaceMisinformation OnlineArtificial IntelligenceTextingMedia IndustryNewspapersOccupational GroupsCOVID-19 & PoliticsScientists' ViewsGovernment Spending & the DeficitResearch ExplainersPolitical PolarizationGender & LGBTQElection 2008DemocracyGovernmentEducation & PoliticsLGBTQ AcceptanceEnvironment & ClimateRemittancesHispanic/Latino IdentityInternational Religious Freedom & RestrictionsIslamAgeHousehold Structure & Family RolesPersonal FinancesRetirementVaccinesTech CompaniesAlgorithmsVideoNews Platforms & SourcesAudio, Radio & PodcastsMilitary & VeteransAtheism & AgnosticismJournalistsUnemploymentInstagramU.S. DemocracyFamily & RelationshipsElections Before 2008AuthoritarianismTrust in GovernmentIssue PrioritiesNational ConditionsGlobal Economy & TradeRacial Bias & DiscriminationHispanic/Latino VotersReligious DemographicsMuslim AmericansTeens & YouthFamily CaregivingIncome & WagesBirth Rate & FertilityClimate ChangeOnline ActivismAutomationGamingDigital News LandscapeNews Audience DemographicsPoliceJoe BidenPoliceReligion & BioethicsEvolutionPolitical PartiesEconomy & WorkVoters & VotingCapitalismSupreme CourtAbortionPrivacy RightsInternational TerrorismSegregationWhitesGlobal Religious DemographicsMuslims Around the WorldOlder Adults & AgingMarriage & DivorceEconomic InequalityGenderEnergyCivic Activities OnlineBotsMusicLocal NewsSocial Media & the NewsJournalistsImmigrant PopulationsWar & International ConflictYouTubeSize & Demographic Characteristics of Religious GroupsScienceVoter DemographicsSocialismCongressDeath PenaltyCriminal JusticeNuclear WeaponsRace RelationsMore Racial & Ethnic GroupsReligion & ScienceBuddhismComparison of Age GroupsDivorcePovertyTrust in ScienceEnvironmentOnline DatingGig & Sharing EconomiesOnline SearchNews CoverageData ScienceHappiness & Life SatisfactionBorder Security & EnforcementGlobal Tech & CybersecurityHuman RightsReligious Characteristics of Demographic GroupsInternet & TechnologyVoter ParticipationCommunismFederal GovernmentDefense & National SecurityDisasters & AccidentsInternational TechnologyRacial & Ethnic IdentityReligious Identity & AffiliationKnowledge & EducationHinduismGender & PoliticsIntermarriageWealthScience News & InformationTechnology AdoptionSocial Relations & TechInternet of ThingsE-CommerceNews Content AnalysisDemographic ResearchTime UseTechnology & ImmigrationRace, Ethnicity & PoliticsGlobal Balance of PowerNATONews Habits & MediaElection System & Voting ProcessPopulismMilitary & VeteransTerrorismReligion & GovernmentImmigration AttitudesRacial & Ethnic ShiftsBeliefs & Practices
Vianney Gómez  is a former research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.
Bradley Jones  is a former senior researcher focusing on politics at Pew Research Center.