When can states begin processing and counting absentee/mail-in ballots?

Americans are voting in the 2020 election in record numbers by absentee and mail-in ballots.

With millions of ballots coming into election offices across the country, state officials are faced with the task of opening, processing and counting those votes.

States process ballots in preparation in different ways depending on the laws of the state. Some election officials are allowed to open the ballot, unfold it and get ready to verify and count it prior to election day.

Other states do not allow for such preparation.

Some states have enacted specific rules for the 2020 election that govern how the ballots are processed and counted.

Below is a chart showing what states are allowed to do when it comes to processing then counting absentee and mail-in ballots.

StateAbsentee/mail-in ballot
processing can begin
Absentee/mail-in ballot
counting can begin
AlabamaNoon on Election Day.After the polls close on Election Day.
AlaskaSeven days before Election Day.8 p.m. on Election Day.
ArizonaTallying can begin 14 days before Election Day.Results may not be released before all precincts are reporting or one hour after the closing of polls on Election Day.
ArkansasSeven days before Election Day8:30 a.m. on Election Day.
CaliforniaProcessing can begin 19 days before Election Day.A vote count can be accessed or released at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
ColoradoUpon receipt.Fifteen days before Election Day.
ConnecticutAt the discretion of the local registrar of voters.At the discretion of the local registrar of voters.
DelawareFriday before Election Day.Friday before Election Day. The vote count cannot be extracted or reported until polls close on Election Day.
District of ColumbiaSignatures can be verified and the secrecy envelope removed prior to tabulation.After the polls close on Election Day.
FloridaSignature verification can begin at 7 a.m. 22 days before Election Day.7 a.m. 22 days before Election Day.
GeorgiaSignature verification conducted upon receipt.7 a.m. on Election Day.
HawaiiUpon receipt.Counting may start before Election Day, though exact timing is not specified.
IdahoAffidavit verified upon receipt. Ballots are not opened until they are delivered to the polls or central location for counting.After the polls close on Election Day.
IllinoisSignature verification must begin within two days of receipt.7 p.m. on Election Day.
IndianaProcessing may not begin before Election Day.No later than noon on Election Day.
IowaAffidavits may be reviewed the day before Election Day.On Election Day, at a time set by the election commissioner.
KansasPrior to Election Day. Exact timing not specified.Ballots may be counted prior to Election Day, but final tabulation shall not be completed until Election Day.
Kentucky8 a.m. on Election Day.Counting begins after all absentee ballots have been processed.
LouisianaDay before Election Day in a parish with 1,000 or more absentee ballots.Counting may begin before Election Day but no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.
MaineFour days before Election Day.After the polls close on Election Day.
MarylandAfter the election.8 a.m. the Wednesday after Election Day.
MassachusettsUpon receipt.No later than an hour after the polls close on Election Day.
MichiganOn Election DayOn Election Day before the polls close at the jurisdiction’s discretion.
MinnesotaVerification upon receipt.After the polls close on Election Day.
MississippiOn Election Day.After the polls close on Election Day.
MissouriFive days before Election Day.On Election Day.
MontanaSignature verification conducted upon receipt.One day before Election Day, if using a vote-counting machine.
NebraskaVerification can begin the second Friday before Election Day.Twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls.
NevadaSignature verification conducted upon receipt.On Election Day.
New HampshireAt 1 p.m. on Election Day, unless a different time, no earlier than two hours after the opening of the polls, is posted and announced.After the polls close on Election Day.
New JerseySignature verification conducted upon receipt.On Election Day.
New MexicoAny time after mailed ballots have been sent until the fifth day before the election, the county clerk may convene an election board to meet during normal business hours to qualify mailed ballots that are returned.Absentee ballots are inserted into vote-counting machines to be registered and retained before Election Day, but votes are not counted until after the polls close
New YorkOn Election Day.After the polls close on Election Day.
North CarolinaThe fifth Tuesday before Election Day.Two weeks prior to Election Day
North DakotaThe day before Election Day.After the polls close on Election Day.
OhioProcessing may begin before the time for counting ballots. Exact timing not specified.Absentee ballots may be scanned prior to the election
Oklahoma10 a.m. on the Thursday before Election DayPrior to Election Day with approval by the secretary of the state election board.
OregonNo sooner than seven days before the election county clerks may begin opening identification and secrecy envelopes and scan ballots into a vote tally system.A person may not make public the results of the tally of votes from any precinct until after 8 p.m. on election day.
PennsylvaniaAt 7 a.m. on Election DayAt 7 a.m. on Election Day, but the votes may not be recorded or published until after the polls close.
Rhode IslandFourteen days before Election Day8 p.m. on Election Day
South Carolina9 a.m. on the day before Election Day.9 a.m. on Election Day.
South DakotaProcessing may begin when sealed absentee ballots are delivered to precincts.After polls close on Election Day.
TennesseeSignature verification conducted upon receipt.On Election Day after the polls open and no later than four hours before closing for general elections.
TexasSignature and voter verification may be conducted upon receipt.When the polls open on Election Day.
UtahProcessing may begin before Election Day.Counting may begin before Election Day.
VermontThe day before the election, at least one hour before depositing ballots in the vote tabulator, absentee ballot envelopes may be examined and inspected by members of the public.The day before the election, absentee ballots may be deposited in a vote tabulator.
VirginiaBefore Election Day as needed.Ballots may be inserted into ballot-counting machines prior to the closing of the polls, but no ballot count totals by the machines shall be initiated until the polls close.
WashingtonUpon receipt.8 p.m. on Election Day.
West VirginiaAbsentee ballots are delivered to precincts on Election Day.On Election Day.
WisconsinAfter the polls open on Election Day.After the polls open on Election Day.
WyomingAbsentee ballots are delivered to precincts on Election Day.On Election Day.

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