How to Register to Vote

Voting registration applications can be submitted by all United States citizens who are 18 years of age or older and meet the voting eligibility requirements. However, only 70 percent of Americans who are eligible to register to vote are, in fact, registered.

By obtaining a voter registration card, citizens are able to help choose leaders and government officials who will make important decisions that will impact the entire country. You may register to vote in order to help decide who will run the government on a local and national level. Voters can also help pass local referendums or initiatives, such as tax plans or education reforms.

To obtain a voter registration card in your state, you must meet certain requirements and fill out a voter registration form before the deadline in your state of residence. U.S. citizens can apply to register to vote online, by mail or in person, depending on their state’s guidelines. Voters applying for voting registration overseas can obtain information by contacting the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). Citizens can also register to vote in other languages by using the National Mail Voter Registration Form, which is available in Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Learn how to register to vote by following these simple steps:

  • Look up voting registration deadlines.
  • Check voting eligibility requirements.
  • Apply for a voting registration card.
  • Take note of voting ID requirements.
  • Check or update your voter registration.
  • Check your voting registration status.

Look Up Voting Registration Deadlines

When applying for a voter registration card, check the voter registration deadlines in your state. Each state has its own set of voting registration deadlines. In certain states, citizens are not allowed to register to vote past the deadline, which is generally up to 30 days before Election Day. However, some states allow you to apply for a voting registration in person at the county office anytime.

Check Voting Eligibility Requirements

Citizens who register to vote must meet certain eligibility requirements. To be eligible to apply for a voting registration in the United States, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be at least 18 years old by Election Day.
  • Be living in the state for a certain period of time (some states require citizens to have lived in the state for at least 30 days prior to voting in the election).
  • Meet your state’s criminal record requirements (some states do not allow ex-felons to vote unless a certain period of time has passed).

Note: All U.S. states require citizens to have voter registrations, except for North Dakota. Some states also require citizens to provide proof of identity in the form of an identification document. 

Apply for a Voter Registration Card

U.S. citizens can register to vote using one of the following methods:

  • Online
  • By mail
  • In person

As of June 2016, 31 states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, allow residents to register to vote online. Online voter registration is the most convenient option for residents looking to receive a voter registration card. To apply for online voter registration, visit your state’s official voting website. Citizens from any state can apply for voting registration online, regardless of whether their state provides online voter registration, by using a third-party provider.

To register to vote by mail, fill out the National Mail Voter Registration form and mail it to the specific location listed for your state. The application must include your full name, home address, mailing address, phone number, date of birth, identification number (from your ID card, driver’s license or Social Security Number), choice of party (if required in your state), ethnicity or race and your signature.

Voters in the U.S. can register to vote in person by submitting a voter application form to their local election offices. However, many states that do not have such offices receive voter registration forms at their departments of motor vehicles, county and state public assistance offices or armed services recruitment centers. Some states, such as Wyoming and New Hampshire, require residents to register to vote in person.

Take Note of Voting ID Requirements

Depending on which state you register to vote in, you may be required to bring an approved proof of identification with you on voting day. Depending on the state, you may need to provide a photo or anon-photo ID. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, Oregon and Illinois, allow voters to vote without showing an identification document. Acceptable forms of photo ID include state ID cards, passports, driver’s licenses and military ID cards. If you do not have any of these documents, your state may be able to issue you a voter photo ID card.

Check or Update Your Voter Registration

Check your voting registration information before Election Day, and update any personal details that may have changed in the meantime. If the information on your application is not entirely up to date, you may not be allowed to vote. Updates may include changes in your name due to marriage, divorce or a court order. Other updates include changes of address for residents who have recently moved and changes in political party affiliations.

Check Your Voting Registration Status

Check the status of your voting registration in order to find out whether you need to register to vote again. If you do not have a voter registration card, you can choose a different method to ensure that your profile information is up to date and that your registration is active. Citizens who have submitted a voter registration form will receive a voter ID card by mail. If you do not receive your card in the mail, contact your state election office immediately. Citizens who submitted an online voter registration form can check their voting status online.