Because Election Day in the U.S. falls on a Tuesday — a regular working day — lots of Americans vote before or after work. At times, that has meant long lines, and more than a little frustration.
That’s why most states now give Americans more ways to cast their votes. Among them: easier access to absentee ballots, an option to vote early or to vote by mail, and even online voting.
The rules for absentee voting vary from state to state. Traditionally, states allowed voters to apply for an absentee ballot if they were going to be away from home for a recognized reason. Absentee voters often have included students attending university away from home or members of the military stationed overseas.
Today, most states no longer require a reason to cast an absentee ballot. The trend especially helps older citizens, many of whom have trouble traveling to a polling place.
And in two states — Oregon and Washington — voting by mail is now the only way to vote.
Early voting is another trend. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia now allow voters to cast their ballots at designated polling places anywhere from weeks to days in advance of Election Day. This helps shorten queues and makes voting easier for citizens who have other commitments on Election Day.
Internet voting was tried most recently in Utah’s Republican Party caucus, but it’s been used only rarely because many computer experts remain concerned about online security. Speaking at the annual South by Southwest festival in Texas, President Obama challenged technology experts to design a secure online voting system. Doing so, he said, could boost voter participation.
Already, Obama observed, Americans can order a pizza or plan a vacation online. They should also be able to use a computer, he said, “to exercise the single most important task in a democracy, and that is for you to select who is going to represent you in government.”