Who is able to vote in the United States?
All citizens must become aware of the voting eligibility requirements before they apply for a voter registration in their state. Voter eligibility is subject to change in every state prior to each election. Therefore, you must make a conscious effort to stay up to date.
Voting gives citizens a voice and helps them take part in making crucial decisions on a variety of issues that affect the entire country. Citizens can help elect political figures into office by obtaining a voter registration card and going to the polls on Election Day. Voters also play a crucial role in helping pass local referendums or initiatives, such as tax plans or education reforms.
Voting registration applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements and fill out a voter registration form before the deadline in their state of residence. U.S. citizens have the option to register to vote online, by mail or in person, depending on their state’s guidelines. Voters can also apply for voting registration overseas by obtaining information from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).
If you are a United States citizen but prefer to apply in a different language other than English, you can register to vote in other languages by using the National Mail Voter Registration Form. This form is available in languages such as Spanish, Vietnamese, Hindi, Japanese, Bengali, Khmer, Korean, Chinese and Tagalog. The following sections will provide you with in-depth information on several eligibility topics, including:
- Voter eligibility requirements.
- Documents to present as proof of identification.
- Possible voting disqualifications.
- Consequences of providing false documents.
United States citizens must meet certain requirements in order to cast their vote in federal elections. To be eligible to place your vote, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen (either by birth or naturalization).
- Be at least 18 years old (some states allow residents who are 17 years of age to apply for voting registration and vote in primary elections if they will become 18 before or on the general election day).
- Meet your state’s residency requirements.
Citizens are required to be legally registered to vote in their jurisdiction in order to be able to vote in any federal election in the U.S. Voter requirements vary based on state laws. North Dakota, for instance, is the only state that does not require residents to apply for a voter registration card in order to participate in the voting process. The only requirement ND residents have is to bring acceptable proofs of identification and residency to the polls in order to vote.
Documents to Present as Proof of Identification
Americans registering to vote may be asked to provide a current valid driver’s license number. If you cannot provide a driver’s license number, then you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number. If no form of identification is provided when applying for a voting registration, then you will be required to provide a proper form of identification at the polling booth when you place your vote.
Acceptable proofs of identification include the following (some states may require one or more of the following documents):
- Driver’s license
- State ID card
- Employee ID
- Military ID
- Utility bills
- Bank statements
- Pay stubs
Citizens also have the option of casting a provisional vote. If a voter is unable to cast a regular ballot, then he or she is not required to provide a form of voter identification. After a voter has cast a provisional ballot, election officials will verify the voter’s eligibility in order to determine whether or not the vote will count.
Possible Voting Disqualifications
The U.S. has certain voting disqualifications which serve to make citizens ineligible to participate in federal elections. Set disqualification groups include: citizens under 18 years of age, applicants who are convicted felons and have been sentenced to one or more years of imprisonment, and applicants who have been declared mentally incompetent by a court.
Note: The only two states that allow felons to cast a vote in federal elections from prison are Maine and Vermont.
Consequences of Providing False Documents
Providing false documents while applying for a voter registration or casting a vote in federal elections is considered a serious crime and can result in strict consequences. It is against the law to provide false information on any electoral registration form, voter registration form or voting-related document. All citizens are required to provide additional information upon a voter registration officer’s request. Failure to do so is also against the law and punishable.
Proxy voting is when you appoint someone else to cast a vote on your behalf. The person whom you appoint must be an eligible registered voter in the U.S. Once you have completed a proxy voter registration, you will be eligible to participate in federal elections for a designated period of time. Persuading someone to vote by proxy or giving false information on a proxy vote is also illegal.
Providing inaccurate information to the voting registration staff or on a voter registration form of any kind (or failing to present personal information) may cause you to be prosecuted by law and face high fines. Other actions that are against the law include: giving false information on a postal vote application, sending someone a postal vote application without his or her consent, and having a registration officer send a proxy application to someone without his or her consent.