HOUSTON — The history of early voting in America is a little murky. That’s because it really started as absentee voting, which allows people to cast their ballot when they can’t be there in person on Election Day.
According to TIME magazine, the earliest evidence of people being allowed to vote before Election Day is from Louisiana where in the 20s, they had a list of eligible people who could vote early, calling it in-person absentee voting.
In the 70s, California adopted something called no-excuse absentee balloting. Under that system, people didn’t have to have a valid excuse to get an absentee ballot. This was because the state was dealing with too many people who were lying to get an absentee ballot. This still wasn’t the early voting that we all know today.
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Early voting as we know it today started in 1987 in Texas. The state legislature passed no-excuse absentee voting that allowed people to vote in person at their county’s election office. In 1991, that legislation was amended to require a minimum number of actual early voting locations in each county.
The Lone Star State’s electoral innovation proved popular. Now, 46 states offer some form of pre-Election Day in-person voting option.