How to Register to Vote and Confirm or Change Registration
November is coming up and it's a good time to find out if you're eligible and registered to vote. It's also a great time to check and update your information
Each state has different voting rules in the United States
Each state runs their own federal and state elections. So if you're in San Diego, California but used to live in New Orleans, Louisiana, you'll have to get caught up on how things are done in your current state. Why is this? Article I and Article II of the Constitution.
- North Dakota does not require you to register in order to vote
- Each state has absentee voting
- Many states have designated polling locations
First Time Voter? Here's what you should know.
Register to Vote in Person
If you prefer to skip doing it online for whatever reason, you can also go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), armed services recruitment center, state, and county public assistance offices.
Overseas and Military
If you're living outside of the United States, and a US citizen, you can register to vote and request an absentee ballot through the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
English not your first language? No problem. You can register to vote in other languages too.
- The National Mail Voter Registration Form that you can print out and mail is available in Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, and Spanish.
- Voter's guides are available in Cherokee, Chinese, Dakota, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yupik.
Do I have to specify a Political Party affiliation?
Nope. It's optional. Your party affiliation is usually only important during primary elections. Some states will have “closed” primary elections. This is where you can only choose to vote from within your party’s candidates. Learn more about different types of primary elections.
- You are never required to join a political party or reveal your party preference when you register
- Only some states will list political party affiliation on a voter registration card.
- You do not have to vote for any candidate just because of the party affiliation
Who can vote?
You'll want to check to make sure you are eligible to vote by visiting your state or local election office. There's even an interactive map to see what type of ID, if any, is required to vote in your state.
For starters, you can vote in United States elections if you are:
- A U.S. citizen
- Meet your state’s residency requirements. (You can be homeless)
- 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 in some states.
- Are registered to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline. Except for North Dakota. They don't require advance voter registration.
Who can't vote?
- Non-citizens, including permanent legal residents
- People with certain felony convictions. (Rules vary by state) Details at your state elections office.
- People who are mentally incapacitated. (Rules also vary by state)
Voting can be a daunting process when you're doing it for the first time. familiarize yourself by checking out these guides:
- A Voter’s Guide to Federal Elections (PDF, Download Adobe Reader)
- 14 Facts About Voting in Federal Elections (PDF, Download Adobe Reader)
Voter Registration Deadlines
If you live in any other state other than North Dakota, you'll have to register beforehand in order to vote. Most states have a registration deadline up to a month before an election. Visit the U.S. Vote Foundation or your state or territory's election office to find their registration deadline.
Issues that may arise when trying to vote
- If your name or address has changed recently
- If your ID doesn't match your current information
- Going to the wrong polling place that you're not assigned to
How to update your registration information
- You may be able to change your information, such as name, address (if you moved recently), party-affiliation at Can I Vote.
- If you need further help, contact your state or local election office.
- Depending on your state’s rules you may be able to make changes to your registration over the phone, online, or by mail.
Do I have to re-register to vote before each election?
Only if your name or address has changed recently. If not, you are eligible to vote in upcoming federal, state, primary, general, special, ballot initiatives, bond issues, legislation, and local elections once you are registered.