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How To Register To Vote In the US Election

How To Register To Vote In the US Election main image

US election day is the first Tuesday in November, which this year is November 3. Your vote will help determine the next US president, so it’s important to make your vote count. To do this, you need to make sure you register on time.

Registering to vote is simple. There are several ways to register to vote, whether this is online or in-person. You can also register for an absentee ballot if you won’t be able to vote on election day.

Who can vote?

To vote in the upcoming presidential election you must:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Meet your state’s requirements (check in with your local election office website to see if you’re eligible)
  • Be 18 years old by election day

If you are an overseas US citizen who used to live in the US, you are able to send an absentee vote.

How do you register to vote?

How do you register to vote?

There are several ways you can register to vote:

Register online

Perhaps the easiest way to register to vote is by registering on Vote.gov.

Here you can register online if you’re from one of the eligible 40 states or from the District of Columbia. 

On Vote.gov you can also download the National Mail Voter Registration Form and find out more information about registering to vote in a state with different registration procedures. 

When registering online, make sure you fill in your most up-to date address, so you’ll be registered to vote at your nearest polling station.

Register in person

If you either can’t register online or would rather register in person, you can register to vote with your state or local election office. 

Find your nearest state or local election office here.

You may also be able to vote at the department of motor vehicles, armed forces recruitment centers and at state and county public assistance offices such as SNAP/food stamps and WIC

Deadlines for registering to vote

Each state’s voter registration deadline is different so make sure you check the U.S Vote Foundation to find out your state’s deadline.

Voting on the day

Voting on the day

On the day, you will need to either vote in-person at an official polling place or by casting an absentee ballot.

Placing an absentee vote

Every state’s absentee voting rules are different, so check with your state election official website or contact your local election officials to find out the rules for your state. 

Absentee voting rules have changed this year due to COVID-19. View the new absentee voting policies here.

Deadlines for absentee votes vary from state to state. View your state’s absentee voting deadlines. 


Every state offers mail-in absentee voting, but some states require you to have an excuse for voting in-mail. Being a student in an out-of-state college or university counts as a valid excuse.

However, it’s also worth noting that due to the coronavirus, some states are allowing people to vote by mail without an excuse.

In addition, some states may automatically send you an absentee ballot or a form to request one.

To return your absentee ballot, you can either send it via postal mail or post in a ballot drop box.

Request an absentee ballot here.

Early voting

Most states offer early voting on specified days for those who can’t vote on election day. You do not need an excuse to send an early vote. 

You may be able to cast an absentee ballot in person before election day, but you must still request an absentee ballot from your state. 

Voting in person:

To find out where you go to vote in-person, you may need to contact your state or territorial election office.Your polling place will be based on your residential address and you won’t be able to vote at any other location. 

You may be asked for your ID when you go to vote, and many states expect you to bring photo ID. Photo ID includes:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • State-issued ID cards
  • Military ID cards
  • Passports

However, many of these states offer a free voter ID card if you don’t have a valid form of photo ID.

 Here are some common mistakes to avoid when filling out your ballot:

  • Forgetting to sign your ballot: If the ballot is missing the voter’s signature it will be rejected.
  • Using a colorful pen: Filling out your ballot with anything other than a black or blue pen will cause your ballot to be disqualified.
  • Not having a witness signature: Some states require one or two witnesses to sign an absentee ballot.
  • Forgetting to sign your envelope: Every state requires voters to sign an affidavit on the outside of the envelope confirming that they are eligible to vote.
  • Sending your ballot back after the deadline
  • Not writing the date correctly: For example, writing 10/13/20 rather than 10/13/2020. 

Read the instructions on the ballot clearly and take your time.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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