What You Need to Know About Absentee Ballot Notary and Witness Signature Requirements

Each state has different rules regarding domestic absentee voting.  Some states impose additional requirements, like witness and/or notary signatures. We've got answers for you here.

Absentee voting, either by mail or by placing a ballot in a drop box, is more popular than ever. In 2020, 65 million voters successfully cast absentee ballots – that’s more than the number of in-person voters! Absentee voting makes life easier. And it’s a secure way to vote. 

  • Most Americans, we’re happy to report, like voting absentee: according to the Pew Research Center, 65% of voters favor access to no-excuse absentee voting, meaning you could cast a ballot from home even if nothing was physically preventing you from getting to the polling place.

  • At U.S. Vote Foundation we learned through our 2020 post-election survey, that the vast majority of voters – domestic (95%), overseas (85%), and military (90%) – were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their absentee voting experience.

  • Eight states – California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and (for general elections only, Vermont) – have successfully implemented "All Vote-by-Mail", in which all registered voters automatically receive a ballot in the mail to vote either by return mail, in-person at a local elections office/vote center, or at a drop box.

 

States that may require you to notarize your signature

In some states, your own signature is not enough to successfully cast a ballot. You must also obtain either a notary signature to either apply for an absentee ballot or submit a completed ballot.

  • Here’s how to find a notary.

  • Remember to bring your ID to the visit! You’ll be required to present ID, sign an attestation, and obtain the notary’s stamp and signature. 

 

Mississippi

    • All absentee ballot envelopes must be witnessed/signed by an official authorized to administer oaths such as a notary public, unless the voter is temporarily or permanently physically disabled. Temporarily or permanently physically disabled voters may have the ballot envelope witnessed by a person who is at least 18 years of age.

    • See the MS absentee voting guide for more details.

 

Missouri

    • In Missouri, your absentee must be notarized.

    • See the MO How to Vote page for more details.

 

Oklahoma

    • For most elections, the absentee voter’s ballot must be notarized.

    • In Oklahoma, notaries are not permitted to charge a fee to notarize an absentee ballot affidavit.

    • For your convenience, many banks, credit unions, libraries, businesses, and organizations offer free absentee ballot notary services to customers and non-customers alike.

    • See OK absentee voting instructions for more details.

 

South Dakota

    • To obtain an absentee ballot, you must submit either a notarized application or a copy of your state ID.

    • This requirement does not apply for both military members and South Dakota residents living outside of the United States.

    • See the SD ballot application for more details.

 

In other states, a signature from an witness who is 18 or older suffices to vote an absentee ballot:

Alabama

    • In Alabama, a completed absentee ballot must be sealed in a plain “secrecy envelope”, which will be sent to you, and then placed inside an envelope featuring the affidavit.

    • This affidavit envelope must be signed by either one notary or two witnesses aged 18 or older.

    • For more details, see the AL absentee voting page.

 

Alaska

    • Absentee ballots must be completed in the presence of a witness: a notary, official authorized to administer oaths, or anyone 18 and older.

    • See AK voting by mail for more details.

 

Kentucky

    • Kentucky does not require witness signatures unless the voter uses a “mark” instead of a signature, in which case two witnesses must affix their signatures.

    • See the KY absentee ballot instructions for more details.

 

Louisiana

    • One witness signature suffices in Louisiana.

    • See the LA Voting FAQ for more information.

 

Minnesota

    • You will need a witness when you vote and complete your ballot.

    • The witness can be either a registered Minnesota voter or a notary.

    • Your witness must sign the signature envelope and list their address.

    • Notaries should write their name and title, sign the signature envelope, and affix their notary stamp.

    • See MN's vote early by mail page for more details.

 

North Carolina

    • One notary public or two witnesses must be in your presence when you mark your absentee ballot. They should only observe you marking your ballot, not how you vote.

    • For NC's witness requirements more details.

 

Rhode Island

 

South Carolina

    • Be sure to sign the voter's oath and have your signature witnessed.

    • Anyone can witness your signature.

    • See the SC Absentee Voting page for more details.

Virginia

    • Virginia once again requires absentee ballots to be signed by a witness.

    • This requirement was temporarily lifted during the 2020 election (due to COVID).

    • Check the VA Absentee Ballot signature requirements for more details.

 

Wisconsin

    • Wisconsin requires one witness signature on an absentee ballot.

    • See the WI absentee guide for more details.

 

If you're still uncertain about signature requirements, you can always contact your local election official for more information.

And then prepare yourself before requesting your absentee ballot! Get registered, get your ballot, and submit it completed by the deadline.  Some jurisdictions will even send you an “I voted!” sticker along with your ballot in the mail.

A Final Note About Absentee Voting Safeguards

Voting by absentee ballot has allowed states to maintain high levels of election security. Indeed, as the New York Times reported in 2020, “states that use vote-by-mail have encountered essentially zero fraud: Oregon, the pioneer in this area, has sent out more than 100 million mail-in ballots since 2000, and has documented only about a dozen cases of proven fraud.” As the Brennan Center for Justice notes, that amounts to “0.00001 percent of all votes cast.”

States using vote-by-mail, or those that permit absentee voting, safeguard their systems by matching the signature on the ballot with the one in the registration record, tracking bar codes on ballots, and conducting post-election audits, among other things. These methods, some of which have been employed for decades, keep elections safe and secure.