Most states have laws permitting someone besides a voter to return the voter’s mail ballot. These laws vary by state.
A central argument made by those who support restrictions on who may return a voter’s mail ballot is that elections are more susceptible to fraud without them. One of opponents’ central arguments is that the restrictions may disenfranchise certain groups of voters.
Below is an analysis of ballot return laws by state, broken down by types of restrictions states do or do not have.
What we found:
• 24 states and D.C. permit someone chosen by the voter, in most cases, to return mail ballots on their behalf
• 12 states specify who may return ballots (i.e., household members, caregivers, and/or family members) in most cases
• 1 state explicitly allows only the voter to return their ballot
• 13 states do not specify whether someone may return another’s ballot
Some state laws have restrictions in addition to the general categories above:
• 11 states specify a maximum number of voters for whom a person can return ballots or a maximum number of ballots they may return
• 9 states that allow someone chosen by the voter to return mail ballots have exceptions specifying who is not permitted to do so
• 7 states and D.C. specify that only voters meeting certain criteria may have their ballots returned by someone else.
All states allow absentee balloting by mail to some extent, and three states use primarily vote-by-mail systems.