POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Early Voting

Early voting refers to the practice of casting a vote before an election’s designated starting date. This can take place either by post or in person, though laws vary by country. In Canada, early voting is permitted to all voters provided they bring a valid form of identification. In the US, 33 states allow early voting without excuse in person. The practice has become more popular in recent years, with 36.6% of voters voting early in the 2016 Presidential elections.

Most voters engage in early voting for convenience, as they can vote on a weekend and spend less time in line. However, the practice is controversial. If a voter can vote 46 days in advance (as is possible in some US states), they may not have all the facts that someone voting on the actual election day does. Critics argue that a nation should vote together in order to reflect the attitudes of a specific time.

Online voting is one method voters can use to vote early. Estonia practices this by allowing its citizens to vote from the sixth to the fourth day prior to the election. Voters can actually change their vote multiple times, but only their final one will count. You can read more about online voting at POLYAS here

See also: Voter Turnout , Absentee Voting, iVoting

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