Four Charts That Show How Absentee Voting Is Skyrocketing In The Pandemic

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 28: Employees and volunteers of the Franklin County Board of Elections sort through, and de-stub both mail in ballots and provisional ballots on April 28, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio on the final day ... COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 28: Employees and volunteers of the Franklin County Board of Elections sort through, and de-stub both mail in ballots and provisional ballots on April 28, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio on the final day of the the Primary Election. The election which was postponed on March 17, is almost exclusively mail in or absentee. The only residents allowed to vote in person are those who are disabled, have no permanent residence, or who requested a ballot by mail but never received it. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Next Tuesday’s primaries pose the next big test for how voting will work in the pandemic. Of the several states that have a primary scheduled for next week, some have made drastic changes to their election procedures so that voters don’t have to cast their ballots in person and can avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. Other states already allowed residents to vote absentee without giving an excuse, but are still seeing a big increase in the practice during the outbreak.

Here is a snapshot of some of the data that TPM has obtained that sheds light on the massive expansion of vote-by-mail that many states are seeing due to the pandemic.

Absentee Ballot Requests Have Increased 16-Fold In Pennsylvania.

Heading into the 2020 election cycle, Pennsylvania was already preparing for a significant increase in absentee voting after a 2019 election law removed a requirement that voters provide an excuse when voting absentee. But the pandemic has turbocharged that increase.

As of Wednesday morning, the state had received some 1.8 million absentee ballot requests. Ahead of the 2016 primary, only 106,999 absentee ballot requests had been submitted, according to data Pennsylvania’s Department of State provided TPM.

Before the pandemic, the state was expecting some 20 percent of voters to use the absentee option in November’s election. With COVID-19, it will likely see an even larger share of its electorate vote absentee.

TPM Illustration/Christine Frapech

Indiana Has Received 10 Times The Absentee Ballot Requests Compared To 2016.

Indiana already had a relatively high rate of absentee voting compared to other states pre-pandemic. But it’s still looking at a major spike in how many voters use the option next week, particularly after state officials earlier this year removed its excuse requirement due to the pandemic.

Election officials have received 545,935 requests to vote by mail in the primary, according to data provided Wednesday to TPM by the Indiana’s secretary of state’s office. That’s more than 10 times the applications election officials received ahead of the 2016 primary, when 53,818 Hoosiers requested to vote by mail.

TPM Illustration/Christine Frapech

23,000 Voted Absentee In New Mexico’s ’16 Primary. Already, 113K Ballots Have Come In For 2020 And More Are On The Way. 

New Mexico sought to mail ballots to all voters, but was blocked from doing so by the state Supreme Court after the GOP challenged the move. Even still, the state is seeing a notable uptick in absentee voting, which was widely used in the state even before the pandemic.

Election officials have already received 113,540 absentee ballots from its Democratic and Republican voters, according to data provided by the secretary of state’s office to TPM on Wednesday. (Another 334 Libertarian ballots have been cast). That’s nearly five times the total number of ballots cast absentee in the 2016 Democratic and Republican primaries, and thousands more ballots will come in as next week’s primary date approaches.

As of Tuesday, election officials had received 155,673 absentee ballot applications, and that number is likely to also increase, as the deadline for those requests isn’t until Thursday.

TPM Illustration/Christine Frapech

About 90K Have Requested To Vote Absentee In DC. In 2016’s Primary, Only 7,000 Absentee Ballot Were Cast.

Approximately 90,000 absentee ballot requests have been submitted in D.C., the Board of Elections told TPM on Wednesday, after the deadline had passed. As of Tuesday midday, the total was 80,047. The Board of Elections did not have data available for the number of absentee requests received for the 2016 primary, but only about 7,000 absentee ballots were ultimately cast in that election.

TPM Illustration/Christine Frapech


Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for gr gr says:

    deus ex machina

  2. Smash those metal Republican motherfuckers into junk!

  3. Rep Andrew Lewis ® said on Wednesday he tested positive on May 20 but did not inform the Dems he meet with.

  4. It’s important to note that in Pennsylvania, we can sign up for mail-in voting, as opposed to absentee voting. I did this yesterday for the upcoming primary.

    The signup for both is similar, but for absentee voting you have to give a reason, and if it’s medical, a doctor’s contact information. But by following the procedure for mail-in voting, no such reason is necessary. They do require identification, in the form of a driver’s license number, for one.

    So, that’s something for TPM to examine. At least be careful of using the term “absentee” voting for everything. There are procedural and likely important legal distinctions.

Continue the discussion at

23 more replies


Avatar for discobot Avatar for imkmu3 Avatar for boscobrown Avatar for gr Avatar for kitty Avatar for apotropoxy Avatar for claimsadjuster Avatar for dryheat Avatar for darrtown Avatar for ljb860 Avatar for jmacaz Avatar for uneducated Avatar for ricardojacquez Avatar for spin Avatar for kelaine Avatar for maximus Avatar for euglena4056 Avatar for skeptical Avatar for humanoid Avatar for rucleare Avatar for o0O0o_o0O0o Avatar for alohanature

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: