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The History of the Absentee Ballot

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 election saw a sharp spike in mail-in ballots. But did you know that absentee voting has been around since America’s birth? The votes of some absent Continental Army soldiers were presented in writing in Hollis, New Hampshire during the American Revolution. Later, during the Civil War, absentee voting became the norm since most eligible men were away fighting. By the first half of the 20th century, absentee voting for soldiers had become commonplace and the option began to be extended to men who were ill or travelling for business reasons, too. In 1978, California voters were allowed to apply for an absentee ballot without an excuse, and many states have followed California’s example in the following years. Today, each state has slightly different laws, but absentee ballots continue to offer an accessible way for voters across America to make their voices heard.

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