Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Can You Vote With A Power of Attorney?

By:  Jeffrey Skatoff, Esq.

No, you generally cannot use a power of attorney to vote on behalf of someone else in an election.  Although election laws and the laws regarding the ability of a power of attorney to vote on behalf of the principal are controlled by each state, the answer across a sampling of states is unequivocally no.

Why Can’t a Power Of Attorney Be Used To Vote?

A power of attorney allows a person (an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) to act in place of the principal.  Generally, a power of attorney can undertake any legal act that the principal can.  Powers often given to a power of attorney include financial powers such as banking and check writing, gifting, or healthcare decisions.  Read What Is a Power of Attorney to learn more about powers of attorney in general.

However, a power of attorney is generally not permitted to perform acts that are uniquely personal to the principal, unless authorized to do so under statute.  Voting is considered a personal act.

State Examples Of Power Of Attorney Voting Laws

Some states have statutes that explicitly prohibit a power of attorney from voting on behalf of their principal, including Florida and Arizona.

Florida Power Of Attorney And Voting

Florida law specifically prohibits an agent from voting in any public election on behalf of the principal.  See section 709.2201, Fla. Stat.

There is also no statutory authority in Florida for an agent to be appointed to register another person to vote.  In Florida Advisory Legal Opinion AGO 78-89 from the Office of the Florida Attorney General, the opinion determined that a daughter who had been granted power of attorney for her mother could not sign the application for voter registration on behalf of her mother.  The opinion states:

In the absence of statutory authority, an agent may not be appointed to register a person to vote. Therefore, a daughter who has been granted power of attorney for her physically and mentally impaired mother is not authorized to sign an application for voter registration on behalf of her mother; hence, a registration made in such a manner would be invalid.

Arizona Power Of Attorney And Voting

Arizona law also forbids the use of a power of attorney to vote in the stead of someone else in an election, and to register someone else to vote.  Arizona Revised Statutes § 16-102 states:

A power of attorney or other form of proxy is not valid for use by a person in any procedure or transaction concerning elections, including voter registration, petition circulation or signature, voter registration cancellation, early ballot requests or voting another person’s ballot.

Many states just treat it as axiomatic that a power of attorney cannot cast a vote for the principal.

Tennessee Power of Attorney and Voting

In Rich Printing Co. v. Estate of McKellar, a Tennessee appeals court stated:

It is axiomatic that  an agency may be created for any lawful act and that whatever a person may lawfully  do, if acting in his own right and in his own behalf, he may delegate that authority to an agent. It is also axiomatic that authority cannot be lawfully delegated which is illegal, immoral or opposed to public policy, nor can one delegate an act which is personal in its nature, such as designating an agency to perform a personal duty or a personal trust. Of course an elected officer cannot delegate one to hold the office to which he has been elected in the absence of statutory authority so to do, nor to cast his vote for him.

Wisconsin Power of Attorney and Voting

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, in charge of administering Wisconsin’s election laws, states on its website that a power of attorney can request an absentee ballot for an elector, but not vote for them:

A Power of Attorney can request an absentee ballot for an elector.  No person (not even a POA) may “vote” a ballot for another elector.  If the elector requires assistance in completing the ballot, the elector may designate another person to assist the elector in marking the ballot.*  In the presence of the elector, the ballot is marked according to the elector’s direction.  The assisting elector must sign their name on the ballot under the section entitled “Signature of Assisting Individual.”

*The assisting elector cannot be the elector’s employer or an agent of that employer or an officer or agent of a labor organization which represents the elector.  S. 6.82(2)(a), Wis. Stats.  3/12/2003

Bottom line, voting is an individual and uniquely personal right that cannot be performed by a power of attorney.