Federal and state elections in the United States are run by the states themselves, according to Article I and Article II of the Constitution. No two states run their elections exactly the same, so contacting your state or local election office is the best way to find out about your state’s unique election rules.
The Basic Steps to Vote are the Same in Most States
Despite the differences in how states run elections, the basic steps to vote are the same almost everywhere.
- Every state except North Dakota requires you to register to vote.
- Every state has absentee voting.
- Most states assign you a specific polling place, or voting location. A few states have ballot drop sites instead.
These voting guides explain the basics of voting, no matter where you live:
- A Voter’s Guide to Federal Elections
- 14 Facts About Voting in Federal Elections
If you need to register to vote, visit Vote.gov. Depending on your state’s voter registration rules, the site can help you
- Register online. This is available for 37 states plus the District of Columbia.
- Download the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can fill it out onscreen and print the completed form, or print the blank form and fill it out by hand. Remember to sign the form before mailing it to the location listed for your state.
- Find guidance for states and territories with different registration procedures.
Start Your Voter Registration
Register to Vote in Person
You can register in person with your state or local election office. If it’s more convenient for you to register elsewhere, you can check with one of these nearby public facilities to see if you can register to vote there:
- The department of motor vehicles
- Armed services recruitment centers
- State and county public assistance offices (SNAP/food stamps, WIC, services for the disabled), where you may fill out and submit a National Mail Voter Registration Form.
Overseas and Military Voters
If you’re a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S., or if you’re a service member, service member’s spouse, or eligible family member, you can register to vote and request an absentee ballot through the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
Register to Vote in Other Languages
- The National Mail Voter Registration Form, which you must print, complete, sign, and mail to the location listed for your state, is available in Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
- Voter’s guides, which include information on registering to vote, are available in Cherokee, Chinese, Dakota, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yupik.
Learn About the Voting Process
If you have questions about the steps involved in voting, these guides from the Election Assistance Commission are a good place to start:
- A Voter’s Guide to Federal Elections
- 14 Facts About Voting in Federal Elections
Every state except North Dakota requires citizens to register if they want to become voters. Depending on your state, the registration deadline could be as much as a month before an election.
Check the U.S. Vote Foundation to find your state’s deadline for registering. You can also check your state or territory’s election office for more details.
Who Can Vote?
Check with your state or local election office for any questions about who can and cannot vote. Use this interactive map to earn more about what type of ID if any is required to vote in your state.
You can vote in U.S. elections if you:
- Are a U.S. citizen
- Meet your state’s residency requirements
- You can be homeless and still meet these requirements.
- Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
- In some states, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day.
- Are registered to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline. North Dakota does not require voter registration.
Who CAN’T Vote?
- Non-citizens, including permanent legal residents
- Some people with felony convictions. Rules vary by state. Check with your state elections office about the laws in your state.
- Some people who are mentally incapacitated. Rules vary by state.
Who May Have Problems Voting Due to State or Local Requirements?
- People who don’t present the types of voter ID required in their state
- People who have changed their name or permanent address and have not updated their voter registration
- People whose name or address on their ID doesn’t match the name or address on their voter registration
- People who go to vote on Election Day at a polling place that is not their assigned polling location
Who May Have Problems Voting Due to Logistics?
- Voters with disabilities are guaranteed assistance at the polls by law. Learn more about your right to an accessible polling place and assistance in voting.
- Voters with language barriers can get help understanding the ballot. Learn more about voting guides and absentee ballots in languages other than English.
- Voters who live overseas, have a disability or injury limiting their mobility, are traveling for business, or attend college out of state can still vote through absentee ballots and early votingin many states.
- Military members and military family members who are stationed away from their polling place can vote through absentee ballot.
Every state runs federal and state elections in their own way, as set out in Article I and Article II of the Constitution, including who can and cannot vote. Your state and local election offices will have the exact rules for voting in your state.
To vote in every state (except North Dakota) you must be registered. Register to vote now.
If You’ve Recently Registered to Vote or Changed Your Registration
If you’ve recently turned in a voter registration application or changed your voter registration, it may take a few weeks for your new voter registration card to arrive in the mail.
- You do not need your physical voter registration card to vote, but you may need other identification. Use this interactive map to learn more about ID requirements in your state.
- Your state’s election office will notify you if there’s a problem with your registration.
- If you don’t receive any response, check with your state or local election office.
How to Check or Update Your Registration Information
- You can check and may be able to change your registration information, including your name, address, and political party online through Can I Vote.
- If you need more help, contact your state or local election office to change your name, address, or political party on your voter registration. Depending on your state’s rules:
- You may be able to make changes to your registration over the phone, online, or by mail.
- Your state may require you to register to vote again to change your information.
Why You Should Check Your Registration Information
Each state has different ways to keep voter registration lists up-to-date, including purging the names of inactive voters. If your election office removes your registration in error and you don’t discover this before you go to vote, you may have to cast a provisional ballot. Checking ahead of time to be sure you are still registered to vote ensures:
- Your name, address, and party affiliation information are up-to-date
- Your registration wasn’t mistakenly purged by your state from the list of eligible voters
- You are able to vote
- You’re voting at the correct polling place
What to Know About Checking and Updating Your Political Party Affiliation
Your political party affiliation is the political party that you have chosen to be associated with. Your party affiliation may be listed on your voter registration.
- You are not required to join a political party or reveal your party preference when you register to vote.
- Not every state accepts or lists a party affiliation on a voter registration card.
- You are not required to vote for any candidate based on the party affiliation that you choose.
Your party affiliation is generally only important in primary elections. Many states have “closed” primary elections. This means that you can only choose to vote from among your party’s candidates during the primary election. Learn more about the different types of primary elections.
You can always choose to vote for any candidate regardless of your party registration in a general election, like a Presidential, congressional, or mayoral election.
When You Should Re-Register or Update Your Registration Information
- Anytime you’ve changed your name
- Anytime you’ve moved permanently
- You’re not permitted to vote in more than one place. When you register to vote in a new location, you’ll be asked for your previous address. Your new election office will send a cancellation form to your previous election office.
- Vote in your new location after you’ve changed your registration address.
When You Do NOT Have to Re-Register to Vote or Update Your Registration Information
- If your name and address have not changed, you should not have to re-register to vote or update your voter registration. Once you are registered, you are eligible to vote in all elections in your area including:
- Federal, state, and local elections
- Primary, general, and special elections
- Ballot initiatives, referendums, bond issues, and other legislation that appears on the ballot
Source by:- usa.govShare: