Absentee ballots allow one to vote even if you can’t make it to the polling station on election day. This can be achieved either through mailing or early in-person voting. However, laws vary by state. As such, you should check the relevant authority in your state for all of the dates and rules about registering for both regular voting and for absentee voting. This could be an election board, an election commission, the state’s department of state, etc. This is also where you would find any documents that are needed.
If you are unsure of where to go, fvap.gov might be a helpful resource. It’s run by the Department of Defense for the benefit of service members, but it has links for individual states. If you are abroad, this should be your primary resource. For those living inside the United States, two caveats are that some of the information is specific to people living overseas and that voting is generally handled entirely by the states, so you should use it primarily to get to the state websites.
The deadlines for voter registration and requesting an absentee ballot vary by state, but as long as you look at information before the beginning of next semester, you’ll almost certainly be able to do so for the presidential primaries and any election taking place afterwards. Typically, the deadline to register is much earlier than the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. So, if you’re already registered, you have a bit longer. The main thing it might too late to do right now would be changing your party affiliation in order to vote in the “correct” presidential primary.
The following is based on information from the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website. Voters should still check with their county election boards for clarifications or confirmations of any rules about voting.
In Oklahoma, there are two main types of absentee ballot applications. They can both be found from the county election boards. One application is for people who are either physically incapacitated or who are caring for someone who is physically incapacitated. The other type is for everyone else (who isn’t overseas); no reason is needed to request an absentee ballot.
It’s easier to apply for an absentee ballot when either you or someone in your care is physically incapacitated. People in this situation do not need their signature notarized, but they do need to witnesses. These voters can get their application to the county election board by mail, fax or telegraph.
Oklahomans living overseas don’t even have to be registered to vote, but they do have to be eligible to register. Also, while they can’t use a telegraph for their application, they can use email.
If you aren’t in any of the special categories, besides mail, fax and telegraph, you can also bring in the application in person. However, you can’t have someone else (well, besides a postal worker) bring it in for you. Regardless of what type of absentee voter you are, the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 PM on the Wednesday before an election.
However, Oklahoma doesn’t actually require voters to use the forms. You can just write a letter to your county election board. To do so, you’ll need to include your name, birth date, address at which you are registered to vote, the election(s) for which you are requesting a ballot, the address to which the ballots should be mailed and your signature. You are allowed to request ballots for all the elections in that calendar year.
Of course, that’s just the application process to be able to use an absentee ballot. If your actual ballot is mailed to you, the county election board must receive it back by 7:00 PM on election day. You can also do in person absentee voting anytime between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM on the Thursday or Friday before an election. For state and federal elections (not local), the Saturday before the election between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM is also an option. People who vote in person apply for an absentee ballot that same day. For people living in nursing homes that are in the same county for which a person is registered, an Absentee Voting Board will come to the nursing home so that everyone there who applied for absentee voting can cast a ballot.
The only other special circumstance is if you find yourself physically incapacitated after 5:00 PM on the Tuesday before an election. People in this situation need to contact the county election board. They also need a doctor’s signature. In order to get the application and ballot to the county election board, they appoint an agent to do so for them.