Over the three days leading up to Election Day, close to a million Americans are likely to have been admitted to hospital emergency rooms. Many of those will end up confined to a bed throughout the course of the presidential election polling on Tuesday. Since the deadline for applying for mail-in absentee ballots was last week in most states, are these sick and injured people disenfranchised, too?
No, but they'll need to get an "emergency absentee ballot." Like everything election-related, the process for obtaining one varies from state to state and sometimes from county to county. In New York, for example, you need to send a representative (like your spouse or your mom) to the Board of Elections with a regular absentee-ballot application—available online—along with a letter, signed by you, explaining your situation. Your proxy can then bring you an emergency ballot, which must be returned to the board office by 9 p.m. on Election Day.
The process is more onerous in Virginia. There, you have to request an application first, then return a signed version and have it verified by local election officials before you can get your bandaged hands on a ballot. A designated representative must watch you complete your ballot and fill out a witness statement to that effect before ferrying the whole package over to the registrar's office by close of polls. (You'll also need a doctor's note.) Pennsylvania makes you or your representative go to court if your accident occurred after 5 p.m. on the Friday before elections.
In West Virginia and Nevada, on the other hand, the mountain comes to Mohammed: In those states, you can request to have election commissioners dispatched to the hospital to collect your ballot. Kentucky's laws allow for a hospitalized voter's spouse to get an emergency ballot, too. A few states—Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas—and the District of Columbia have jumped into the digital age and offer downloadable emergency-ballot applications. However, these documents must still be printed out and submitted by mail or in person.
If you can manage to get yourself into an ambulance or family member's car, you may be able to vote curbside at your registered polling place. To find out what the rules are in your county, check with your secretary of state or your local election office.
Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.
Explainer thanks Karen Lynn-Dyson and Matt Weil of the Election Assistance Commission, the Staten Island Board of Elections Office, and Dan Tokaji of Ohio State.