September 27th, 2016 By Kathleen Mueller in Blogs.
Federal and state elections in the United States are run by the states themselves, according to Articles I and II of the Constitution (PDF, Download Adobe Reader). 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.
If you need to register to vote, visit Vote.USA.gov. Depending on your state’s voter registration rules, the site can help you
- Register online. This is available for 31 states plus the District of Columbia.
- Download the National Mail Voter Registration Form (PDF, Download Adobe Reader). 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.
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.
Who Can Vote?
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
- You can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day. Check your state’s registration age requirements.
- Register to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline
- The one exception is for residents of North Dakota, which doesn’t have voter registration.
Who CAN’T Vote?
- Non-citizens, including permanent legal residents
- For President in the general election: U.S. citizens residing in U.S. territories
- 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.
Whose Options Are Limited Due to Primaries, Caucuses or Political Party?
No one’s. In the general election, you can vote for any Presidential candidate on the ballot from any party:
- Whether you voted in your state’s primaries or caucuses or not
- Regardless of who you voted for in the primaries or caucuses
- Regardless of whether you’re registered with a political party or not
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 Voter 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 or language barriers. Make sure you know your rights and the options available to help you vote.
- Voters who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. Whether you live overseas, have a disability or injury limiting your mobility, are traveling for business, or attend college out of state, be sure you’re aware of the options available to you for Absentee and Early Voting.
If You’ve Recently Registered to Vote
If you’ve recently submitted a voter registration application, wait a few weeks for your voter registration card to arrive in the mail.
- If there’s a problem with your application, you will be notified.
- If you don’t receive any response, check with your state or local election office.
How to Check or Update Your Registration Information
- Check your registration information, including your name, address, and political party, online at Can I Vote.
- You may be able to update your registration information at Can I Vote.
- You may have to register to vote again to update your registration information.
- Contact your state or local election office for other ways to verify and update your registration information.
Why You Should Check Your Registration Information
- To ensure your information is up to date if you’ve moved or changed your name and aren’t sure you updated your registration
- To ensure your registration wasn’t mistakenly purged by your state
What to Know About Checking and Updating Your Political Party Affiliation
If you’re checking to see which political party you’re registered with, keep in mind that you may not be registered with any political party. This could be because:
- Your state doesn’t accept party affiliations.
- You didn’t indicate a party preference when you registered to vote.
- You can register to vote and participate in general elections and nonpartisan primary elections without ever choosing a party affiliation.
If you are registered with a political party, that will not limit you to voting for that party’s candidate in the general election. You can vote for any candidate on the ballot.
When You Should Re-Register or Update Your Registration Information
- Anytime you’ve changed your name
- Anytime you’ve moved permanently
- You can’t be registered to vote in more than one place at a time. 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.
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 to update your voter registration. Once you register, you are registered to vote in all
- Federal, state, and local elections
- Primary, general, and special elections
- However, state procedures on maintaining their voter registration rolls vary. If your registration is removed and you don’t discover this before you go to vote, you may have to cast a provisional ballot. That is why it is always a good idea to check your registration status before any election in which you want to vote.
- If you’ll be requesting an absentee ballot because you’ll be temporarily away from home during the election, you should not change your address in your voter registration. Such situations include:
- Being away on vacation or business travel
- Serving in the military, or being a military family member, outside your state of legal residence
- Attending college out of state. However, you may be able to register with your school address and vote in that state, if you choose.