vision 2020

Election Day Begins on September 4 As Mail Ballots Start Going Out

And they’re off! Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

There’s been a lot of talk — very important talk, as it happens — about “Election Day” being extended this year thanks to heavy voting by mail and accordingly slow counts, which mean we may not know the results in many contests for days and even weeks.

But just as Election Day won’t end on November 3, it also won’t begin then either, as heavy mail balloting (and perhaps heavy in-person early voting to avoid long Election Day lines and unsafe conditions) increases the percentage of votes cast early. North Carolina (or more specifically, its county election offices) kicks off the process by sending out ballots on September 4 to registered voters who have proactively requested them. As Business Insider reports, other battleground states that begin mailing out ballots in September include Pennsylvania (September 14), Wisconsin (September 17), Virginia (September 18), Georgia and Michigan (September 19), and Florida (September 24). All of these states also require mail-ballot applications to trigger the dispatch of ballots, while New Jersey and Vermont (September 19), Nevada (late September), California (October 3), Colorado and Montana (October 9), Utah (October 13), Hawaii and Oregon (October 14), and Washington (October 16) will mail ballots to all active registered voters without requiring an application.

Meanwhile, early in-person voting will begin in mid-September in Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

What this all means, of course, is that campaigns, political parties, advocacy groups, pollsters, and media observers will soon need to begin calibrating their approach to election contests according to votes already cast and eligible voters remaining. Campaigns will work overtime to “bank” early votes, the better to concentrate on later-deciding target voters. And candidates who are behind, like (at present) Donald Trump, will have a steadily narrowing window for making up deficits before the deal goes down.

Election Day Is About to Begin