How to register to vote
With the 2020 US election quickly approaching, now is the time for citizens to ensure their voting information is up-to-date to prevent any hindrance to their right to cast a ballot on election day.
The first step in the process is ensuring you are registered to vote, and that your registration is up to date.
Am I registered to vote?
The first thing you should do is check to see if you’re registered. You can do so by putting your information into Vote.org and checking your registration. Here’s the site: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/
Voter registration is public record, so the site can determine whether or not you’re registered and at which address you’re registered to vote.
Why does my address matter?
Your address determines your polling place. If you’re planning to vote absentee or to vote by mail, then your address is less important. However, if you plan to vote in person and you’ve recently moved, it’s important to check to see where you’re registered to vote. If you move, update your address with your state so you don’t end up having to drive a long distance to reach a polling place. This is especially important this year as the coronavirus pandemic will likely result in fewer operating polling places come election day.
What if I’m not registered?
If you’re not registered or have been removed from your state’s voter rolls, there are a few ways to re-register.
Most states and the District of Columbia have online voter registration. The states that DO NOT allow online voter registration are: Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.
To find a link to your online registration form, check out this National Conference of State Legislators page with all the relevant information you’ll need.
If you’re in a state where you can’t register online or if you just prefer the traditional method, there are options available to you.
First, most states – even if they don’t have online voter registration – allow you to print out a voter registration form and either fill it in on your computer or by hand at home. You can then mail your form in to your state agency that handles voter registration.
Depending on your state’s re-open status, you may also physically visit your state’s local polling agency – most likely a county board of elections office – and register in person. It’s best to have an ID when registering to vote.
It’s important to remember that different states have different deadlines for registration. Many states require voters to be registered between 15 and 30 days prior to an election. Some, like Colorado, allow for day-of registration.
US citizens living in US territories can’t vote for the president in the general election, so keep that in mind.
Once you’ve registered to vote, it’s best to check just to make sure your registration has been processed. Give it a week and check your voter registration online; if you still aren’t listed as registered, it’s a good idea to call your local elections officials and check the state of your registration.
This is why it’s best to register as soon as possible to avoid any last-minute mix-ups from impeding your right to vote.
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