How do I Register to Vote in the United States?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2016
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In the United States, you cannot participate in elections if you are not a registered voter. Most states make it very easy for citizens to register to vote, since they want to encourage all eligible voters to take part in the democratic process. The procedure is essentially the same in all states, although there may be some small differences. It usually involves simply filling out a registration form.

Before you register to vote, determine whether or not you are eligible to vote. You must be an American citizen to vote in the United States, and you must also be 18 years of age or older at the time of the election. In some states, you cannot be a convicted felon. You must also be a resident of the county in which you are registering to vote. In some cases, you must register 15 days before an election, although this requirement varies widely, from 10 to 30 days, depending on the location.

After you have determined that you are eligible to vote, pick up a voter registration form. These forms are available in many places, including libraries, post offices, and the department of motor vehicles. For non-English speakers, voter registration forms in other languages are provided. Many states also offer voter registration materials online, through the office of the Secretary of State. In addition, voter outreach organizations provide voter registration forms, if you are having difficulty finding one.


Fill out all of the information on the voter registration form. The form asks for your address and date of birth, and some request your party affiliation. It will also ask for proof of identity, such as a Social Security Number or driver's license number, and it will have a space for a signature. Mail the voter registration or take it to your local voter registration office, and look for a registration card in two to four weeks. If you do not receive such a card, contact your county clerk or registrar of voters to make sure that you are listed on the rolls.

You will need to re-register if you change your name, political affiliation, or address. In some cases, you can change this information by calling the county clerk, although you may find it easier to fill out a new voter registration form.

Some states allow people to register to vote at the polling place. In this instance, bring proof of your residence, along with a valid identification. You will receive a provisional ballot, and you can check back with the registrar of voters or the county clerk later to make sure that your registration was accepted.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also called the Motor Voter Act, made it possible for individuals in most states to register to vote when they applied for social services or when they applied for or renewed their drivers licenses. This is often the easiest way to register in the US.


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Discuss this Article

Post 6

I used to always carry my voter registration card with me, but now just keep it in a safe place at home. We live in a small rural community and when we go to vote we don't even have to show our card.

All of the names of the registered voters are printed out and as you come to vote, so all you do is check your name off. This kind of surprises me as I would think there would be more required and that you would at least have to show your card.

For those of you who live in larger cities do you have to show your voter registration card when you vote or is it done the same way everywhere?

Post 5

We recently moved to a new community and I saw voter registration cards at the library. I just happened to seem them available as I was checking out some books.

There are so many things you need to change and update when you move and this wasn't even on my list. I had completely forgotten about letting them know we had a new address. Seeing the forms at the library was an easy reminder of one other change of address I had to take care of.

Post 4

I must say there are all kinds of places a person can get a register to vote form. There really shouldn't be any excuse for a citizen of the United States not to be registered to vote if they qualify.

I have voted in every election since I was 18 and think it is very important. Recently there has been a trend towards a lot of people voting with an absentee ballot. I know in many circumstances this is the only way they could vote, but I enjoy going to the polling place and casting my vote that way.

Post 3

@anon19282-- I agree with your point. I also know people who don't consider themselves a member of either party and don't know how they would be able to specify a particular party. I think all states should give the person the option to decline or just leave it blank. As long as you filled out the required information so you could prove who you were, they should be able to register your name so you cold vote.

Post 2

Why does a person have to declare their political affiliation at all. Surely this violates the idea of a secret ballot and lends opportunity for corruption to administrators when processing applications.

Post 1

You can also download the voter registration form online. A simple "register to vote" search online should get you to what you're looking for.

Also, you don't necessarily have to state a party affiliation. California, for example, allows you to "decline to state." But if you want to vote in primary elections in some states, you may have to register with a political party. Check your individual state rules before you decide whether and which party to register as.

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