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VOTE: OK - How Do I Do That? or Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Voting But Didn't Know How to Find Out

Updated on October 23, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

Are You an Active Voter?

How often do you vote?

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It's All Well and Good to Be Encouraged to Vote

But do I have to do anything besides show up at a polling place on Election Day?

YES - you do. You have to do several things.

Voter Eligibility

In order to vote, you have to verify your U.S. citizenship and provide some form of identification verifying your address. What form of I.D. required is determined by each state. In most states, 18 is the minimum age to vote, but you do not have to be 18 in order to register. And all but a few states make a citizen go through a registration process prior to election day. Most states only require that you reach your 18th birthday by the next election. Some require that you be 17 and six months of age at the time you register.

States also have their own residency requirements usually based on the amount of time you have lived within that state .You may register to vote at your college address, even if that address is for a dorm room. If you receive mail in a Post Office box you can sign an affidavit or get a letter from your Residential Life office confirming your dorm address. Members of the armed forces and citizens who are living abroad can contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program (www.fvap.gov or 800-438-VOTE) to find out how to register.

Theodore Roosevelt on Voting

Fun Facts to Know and Tell

  • The only state not to require any voter registration: North Dakota

  • States where you can register on Election Day: Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wyoming and Wisconsin

  • “A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user” — Commonly attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt.



How to Register or Change Your Registration


In almost all states, you can register by mail to vote using the National Mail Voter Registration Form. North Dakota, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not accept this form and have their own process for registration. New Hampshire accepts this form only as a request for an absentee voter mail-in registration form. In some states, you can also register online to vote. Check with your state election office to find out how to register to vote.

In every county you can register to vote in person at these places:

  • Voter registration election office

  • Department of motor vehicles
  • Public assistance agencies

  • Armed services recruitment centers

  • State-funded programs that serve people with disabilities

  • Any designated voter registration agency such a public libraries.

    After successfully registering a voter card is mailed stating where your polling place is located and where to call if you have questions. These cards are not required in order to vote, but your state may require voters to provide some government form of identification at their polling place..

Ineligibility to Vote

If you haven’t exercised your right to vote in several election cycles, you may be removed from your county's registration rolls for being inactive – usually if you have not participated in four or more general elections. Check with your state elections office to verify if you are still register and to re-register if necessary. If you have moved, even within your county, or changed your name (as in marriage) you must re-register to vote.

If you go to your past polling place to vote and find you are not on their list, call your country voting registrar to find your correct location. Once there you can cast a provisional ballot if you are not still registered. After the polls close on Election Day the state will check on the status of your voter registration. The state must let you know whether or not your ballot was counted. If you have a problem voting and think your rights have been denied you may call (866) OUR-VOTE for assistance on Election Day.

It's Not That Hard - Really!

State Registration Deadlines

Residency rules for registering to vote vary from state to state. A state cannot require you to live there for more than 30 days in order to register. For additional information about state-specific requirements and deadlines for registration, contact your state election office then submit the National Mail Voter Registration Form before your state's deadline.

• Alabama – Voter registration is closed during the 10 days before an election. Applications must be postmarked or delivered by the eleventh day prior to the election.

• Alaska – 30 days before the election

• Arizona – 29 days before the election

• Arkansas – 30 days before the election

• California – 15 days before the election

• Colorado – 29 days before the election. If the application is received in the mails without a postmark, it must be received within 5 days of the close of registration.

• Connecticut – 14 days before the election

• Delaware – The fourth Saturday before a primary or general election, and 10 days before a special election.

• District of Columbia – 30 days before the election

• Florida – 29 days before the election

• Georgia – The fifth Monday before any general primary, general election, or presidential preference primary or regularly scheduled special election following the Georgia Election Code. If a special election is scheduled on a date other that those dates prescribed by the Georgia Election Code, registration would close on the fifth day after the call.

• Hawaii – 30 days before the election

• Idaho – 25 days before the election

• Illinois – 28 days before the election

• Indiana – 29 days before the election

• Iowa – Must be delivered by 5 PM, 10 days before the election, if it is a state primary or general election; 11 days before all others. Registration forms which are postmarked 15 or more days before an election are considered on time even if received after the deadline. If you fail to meet these deadlines, you can register to vote on Election Day.

• Kansas – Postmarked or delivered 21 days before the election.

• Kentucky – 29 days before the election

• Louisiana – 30 days before the election

• Maine – Delivered 21 business days before the election or you can register in-person up to and including Election Day.

• Maryland – Delivered by 9 PM, 21 days before the election

• Massachusetts – 20 days before the election

• Michigan – 30 days before the election

• Minnesota – Delivered by 5 PM, 21 days before the election. You can also register at the polling place on Election Day.

• Mississippi – 30 days before the election

• Missouri – 28 days before the election

• Montana – 30 days before the election

• Nebraska – The third Friday before the election (or delivered by 6 PM, on the second Friday before the election)

• Nevada – The deadline for mail-in registration is the fifth Saturday before any primary or general election. In person registration remains available until 9 PM on the third Tuesday preceding any primary or general election. You may register to vote in person only by appearing at the office of the County Clerk/Registrar of Voters.

• New Hampshire – Town and city clerks will accept the National Mail Voter Registration Form only as a request for their own absentee voter mail-in registration form, which your city or town clerk must receive by 10 days before the election. You can register at the town or city clerk’s office or in-person on Election Day.

• New Jersey – 21 days before the election

• New Mexico – 28 days before the election

• New York – 25 days before the election

• North Carolina – Postmarked 25 days before the election or received in the elections office or designated voter registration agency site by 5 PM, 25 days before the election.

• North Dakota – No voter registration

• Ohio – 30 days before the election

• Oklahoma – 25 days before the election

• Oregon – 21 days before the election

• Pennsylvania – 30 days before an election or primary

• Rhode Island – 30 days before the election

• South Carolina – 30 days before the election

• South Dakota – Received 15 days before the election

• Tennessee – 30 days before the election

• Texas – 30 days before the election

• Utah – 30 days before the election for mail-in applications and 15 days before the election for walk-in registration at the county clerk’s office

• Vermont – Delivered to the town clerk before 5 PM, on the Wednesday before the election

• Virginia – Delivered 22 days before the election

• Washington – 29 days before the election or 8 days before the election if delivered in person to the local voter registration office

• West Virginia – 21 days before the election

• Wisconsin – 20 days before the election or completed in the local voter registration office up to 5 PM or the close of business, whichever is later, on the Friday before the election. You can also register at the polling place on Election Day.

• Wyoming – Cannot accept the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can register in-person, by mail, or at the polls on Election Day.



Because some gave all:

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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks Dzy! I think it is horrible when someone wants to vote and finds out they haven't jumped through the right hoops in order to do so. The biggest problem seems to be understanding what you have to do if you move, even within your own county, to get current with the voting registrar. I'd love to see election day registration available everywhere. And in the age of digital photography, make voters an ID on the spot and keep the pix with their registration on file. ID problem solved.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great and valuable information, here, and excellent job of compiling it all in one convenient place!

      Personally, I have never missed an election since I reached voting age, some 46 years ago! (In my day, it was 21, not 18.)

      However, I know there are quite a few too many people, including younger people, who toss it off as "a bother," or "I'm too busy," or "I can't stand politics," or "why bother? my vote won't count, anyway," or other such ridiculous and invalid excuses.

      To that end, I'm sharing this everywhere!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks teaches12345. This one was a hard one to get past the duplicate content filter because it's full of so much public information. I picked this topic because I thought a lot of people need it in an election year. Glad I finally got it on the record. I had to go to many places before I could gather it in one place. Hope potential voters find it.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      This is good information to have on file.

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