When states can process and count absentee/mail-in ballots

Welcome to the Thursday, September 29, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Help Desk: when states can begin processing and counting absentee/mail-in ballots
  2. Battleground preview—Minnesota gubernatorial election
  3. Arizona voters may determine the partisan balance in the U.S. Senate on Nov. 8

Help Desk: when states can begin processing and counting absentee/mail-in ballots 

At the start of the week, we told you about our 2022 Election Help Desk. We created the Help Desk to answer frequently asked questions about elections and election administration, including questions about early voting, election night vote reporting, and election-related lawsuits. We started the project in 2020 and are excited to bring it back for this election cycle.

Today, let’s look at a topic covered in the Help Desk—when states can begin processing and counting absentee/mail-in ballots. While all states have some form of absentee/mail-in balloting, some restrict when and why voters can cast such ballots. Upon receiving completed absentee/mail-in ballots, election officials must process the ballots before they can be counted. 

  • In 13 states, processing begins at some point on Election Day, though the exact time varies by state. In Mississippi, for example, processing begins when polls open. In New Hampshire, processing begins at 1 p.m. on Election Day, unless a different time is posted and announced. 
  • In 22 states, processing can begin before Election Day. In Georgia, for example, election administrators can begin verifying signatures upon receipt and conduct additional processing at 8 a.m. on the third Monday before Election Day. In Alaska, processing can start seven days before Election Day. In Rhode Island, processing starts 14 days before Election Day. In California, it’s 29 days. 
  • In 10 states, processing can begin upon receipt. 
  • In five states (and the District of Columbia), the exact time when processing can begin isn’t specified or is left up to local officials. For example, in Connecticut, processing is at the discretion of the local registrar of voters. The board of elections in Ohio determines when processing begins. 

States also differ on when absentee/mail-in ballots can be counted. 

  • In 37 states (and the District of Columbia), ballots are counted at some point on Election Day. In Alabama, counting begins after the polls close. In South Carolina, counting can begin at 9 a.m. on Election Day. In Massachusetts, counting begins on Election Day but no later than an hour after the polls close. 
  • In 12 states, laws allow counting to begin before Election Day or do not specify a time. In Hawaii, for example, counting can start 18 days before Election Day. In Nevada, counting can begin 15 days before Election Day and must conclude by the seventh day after Election Day. In Connecticut, when counting starts is up to the discretion of the registrar of voters. 
  • In Maryland, counting can begin on October 1, 2022. 

The Help Desk also answers other questions about absentee/mail-in ballots, like “What happens if I vote by mail and want to change my ballot at a later date?” and “How do states verify absentee/mail-in ballots?”

Click below to learn when your state can begin processing and counting absentee/mail-in ballots. 

Keep reading

Battleground preview—Minnesota gubernatorial election

​​We’re previewing pivotal battleground elections across the country up until election day. Today, let’s look at Minnesota, one of 36 states holding gubernatorial elections. Minnesota is also one of 13 states with divided government.

Since 1990, Minnesota has had two Democratic governors, two Republican governors, and one Reform Party governor. 

Incumbent Gov. Tim Walz (D), Scott Jensen (R), and four other candidates are running in the election.

Walz, who was first elected in 2018, served in the Army National Guard and was a teacher. He was elected to Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in 2006 and served in the U.S. House until 2019. Walz said his administration built a strong economy in his first term and that he “balanced every budget while cutting taxes, adding money to the state’s rainy-day fund, and making critical investments to expand access to training opportunities and community college programs.”

Jensen is a physician and owner of Catalyst Medical Clinic in Watertown, Minn. He was a member of the Waconia school board and served in the Minnesota Senate from 2017 to 2021. Jensen’s top priorities are stopping crime, fighting inflation, lowering energy costs, protecting and supporting women, and increasing rural prosperity. Jensen said he is running because, “Our great State has suffered under unilateral control, partisan bickering, and political brinksmanship by the parties and politicians…We need a new vision, a new prescription… It’s time for a new direction in Minnesota.”

Steve Patterson (Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota), Hugh McTavish (Independence Party of Minnesota), James McCaskel (Legal Marijuana Now Party), and Gabrielle Prosser (Socialist Workers Party) are also running in the election. 

Heading into the election, there are 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors. Of those states holding gubernatorial elections, 20 have a Republican governor, and 16 states have a Democratic one.

Read more about Minnesota’s gubernatorial election here. 

Keep reading 

Arizona voters may determine the partisan balance in the U.S. Senate

Today is the 23rd day of our 50 States in 50 days series, and we’re featuring Arizona, the Grand Canyon State.

Week One: Pennsylvania, Indiana, South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota
Week Two: California, Georgia, Texas, Montana
Week Three: North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Illinois, Idaho
Week Four: Kentucky, Michigan, Arkansas, Minnesota, West Virginia
Week Five: Vermont, Nevada, Wyoming

On the ballot in Arizona

At the federal level, Arizona voters will elect one U.S. Senator and nine U.S. Representatives. 

At the state level, the offices of governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and three seats on the state supreme court are up for election. 

All 30 seats in the state Senate and all 60 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election. Of the nine U.S. House seats up for election, one is open. Of the 90 state legislative seats up for election, 43 are open. The Arizona House of Representatives is a multi-member chamber. Two members are elected from each district. Two candidates advanced from each party primary to the general election.

Additionally, Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in the cities of Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, and Scottsdale, and in the counties of Maricopa and Pima.

Redistricting highlights

Arizona was apportioned nine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census. 

Congressional and state legislative elections will take place under new district lines following the census. Our side-by-side map comparison tool allows you to immediately see what redistricting looks like in your state. Here are the congressional maps in effect before and after the 2020 redistricting cycle in Arizona:  

To use our tool to view Arizona’s state legislative maps in effect before and after the 2020 redistricting cycle, visit our  Arizona redistricting page

Partisan balance

  • Both of Arizona’s U.S. Senators–Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema–are Democrats. 
  • Democrats represent five of the state’s U.S. House districts. Republicans represent four.
  • Republicans hold a 16-14 majority in the state Senate and a 31-28 majority in the state House of Representatives. The governor–Doug Ducey–is a Republican, making Arizona one of the nation’s 23 Republican trifectas. Arizona has been a Republican trifecta since 2009. 
  • Arizona’s governor and attorney general are Republicans, and the secretary of state is a Democrat.

Seats contested by only one major party

This year, 54 state legislative seats in Arizona, or 60% of all seats up for

election, do not have major party competition. When a candidate from only one of

either the Democratic or Republican parties runs for a state legislative seat, the seat

is all but guaranteed to be won by that party,

Democrats are running in 68% of all state legislative races. Twenty-nine state legislative seats (32% of all state legislative seats) do not feature a Democratic candidate and a Republican is likely to win.

Republicans are running in 72% of all state legislative races. Twenty-five seats (28%

of all state legislative seats) do not feature a Republican candidate and a Democrat is likely to win.

Key races

  • Arizona gubernatorial election, 2022: Governor Doug Ducey (R) is term-limited. Katie Hobbs (D), Kari Lake (R), Barry Hess (L), and Williams Pounds (I) are running. Analysts have rated this election as a toss up.
  • U.S. Senate election in Arizona, 2022: Incumbent Mark Kelly (D), Blake Masters (R), and Marc Victor (L) are running. Kelly won a 2020 special election to replace John McCain (R), who died in 2018. Analysts have identified this as a key race in determining the partisan balance of the U.S. Senate. 
  • Arizona Secretary of State, 2022: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) is term-limited. Mark Finchem (R), Adrian Fontes (D), and Peter Yeaple (L) are running. Analysts have rated this election as a toss-up.

Ballot measures

Arizona voters will decide ten statewide ballot measures on Nov. 8, 2022: 

  • Proposition 308: Repeals provisions of Proposition 300 (2006) to allow in-state tuition for non-citizen residents.
  • Proposition 309: Requires date of birth and voter identification number for mail-in ballots and eliminates two-document alternative to photo ID for in-person voting.
  • Proposition 310: Creates a 0.1% sales tax for 20 years to fund Arizona’s fire districts.
  • Proposition 128: Allows the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot measures that contain provisions ruled unconstitutional or invalid by the state or federal supreme court.
  • Proposition 129: Requires citizen-initiated ballot measures to have a single subject.
  • Proposition 130: Allows the Legislature to set certain property tax exemption amounts and qualifications rather than determining details in the constitution.
  • Proposition 131: Creates the office of Lieutenant Governor to be elected on a joint ticket with the governor and to succeed the governor in the case of a vacancy.
  • Proposition 132: Requires a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote to pass ballot initiatives (both statutes and constitutional amendments) and legislatively referred amendments that would approve taxes.
  • Proposition 209: Limits interest rates for debt from healthcare services and increases the value of certain property and earnings exempt from debt collections processes.
  • Proposition 211: Requires independent expenditures of more than $50,000 on a statewide campaign or $25,000 on a local campaign to disclose the names of all original sources who contributed $5,000 or more.

A total of 168 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2020. Of that number, 89 ballot measures were approved, and 79 were defeated.


  • On Election Day, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. An individual in line at the time polls close must be allowed to vote. 
  • Arizona requires voters to present photo identification or two forms of non-photo identification at the polls. For more information about voter ID requirements in Arizona, click here
  • Early voting in Arizona is available to all voters. Early voting starts on Oct. 12 and ends on Nov. 4.
  • The voting registration deadline in Arizona is Oct. 11. Registration can be done online, in person, or by mail. Arizona does not allow same-day voter registration.
  • Any voter registered in Arizona can vote absentee by mail. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 28. Ballots can be returned in person or by mail. Ballots must be received by Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. 
  • To check the status of your ballot, click here.

Want to learn more about the elections you’ll be voting in this year? Click here to use our Sample Ballot Lookup tool!  

Keep reading