Election Day in the U.S. is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Many state and local races will be decided on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, but you may be able to vote early or by absentee ballot.
You can cast your vote in local, state and federal elections in several ways.
Vote in person at a polling place or polling station
Vote by mail if you are unable to go to your registered polling station because you are temporarily living in another place, are in the military, or are overseas.
Many states offer early voting so you can avoid the lines on Election Day. Learn more.
Cast Your Vote at a Polling Place or Polling Station
Polling locations are assigned by residential address. It is important that you go to your assigned location since your name will not be on the roster at any other location. Your polling place may change from one election to the next, so check before you go to vote.
Two-thirds of states request or require that you provide some form of identification before you’re allowed to vote at the polls.
Find Out if You Need to Bring an ID to Vote
Your state’s laws, as indicated by this state legislators' map, determine whether you will need to show an ID, and if so, what kind.
Photo ID versus Non-Photo ID
About half of the states with voter ID laws accept only photo IDs, such as driver’s licenses, state-issued ID cards, military ID cards, and passports. Many of these states now offer a free voter photo ID card if you don’t have another form of valid photo ID.
Other states accept certain types of non-photo IDs, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, bank statements, and utility bills. Each state is specific about the documents it will accept as proof of identification. Be sure you know your state’s voter ID requirements prior to Election Day.
You should also be aware that legal challenges continue to affect some states’ voter ID laws, and requirements can change as a result. It’s always wise to check directly with your state election office to ensure you have the proper ID.
Procedures for Voting Without ID
Even if you don’t have a form of ID that your state asks for, you may be allowed to vote. But some states require you to take additional measures after you vote to make sure that your vote counts.
Some states may ask you to sign a form affirming your identity. Other states will let you cast a provisional ballot, which is used when there is a question regarding a voter's eligibility. In some states, election officials will investigate the voter’s eligibility and decide whether to count the vote.
Other states require that you return to an election office within a few days and show an acceptable form of ID. If you don’t, your vote won’t be counted.
Name or Address Mismatch
Even if you have a form of ID that your state accepts, you may be required to cast a provisional ballot if the name or address on your ID doesn’t match the name or address on your voter registration. This may happen, for example, if:
You get married, change your last name, update your voter registration but present a driver’s license with your unmarried name.
You move, present a current utility bill as proof of ID but forget to update your address on your voter registration beforehand.
Additionally, some states require you to notify your local registration office of any change in your name to remain a qualified registered voter.
You can avoid problems by always updating your voter registration whenever you move and if you change your name.
First Time Voters
First time voters who didn’t register in person and haven’t previously provided proof of ID are required by federal law to show some form of identification.
Sample ballots can be helpful to review before Election Day and to bring with you to the polls. Your state or territory may mail you a sample ballot prior to Election Day or allow you to download one from its election site. The sample ballot may look exactly like the real one you see when you vote, and will show you all the races—federal, state, and local—and candidates you’ll be able to vote for, as well as any state or local propositions or measures being decided.
Some non-profit organizations also produce unofficial sample ballots for elections throughout the U.S., based on locality. These ballots may not look identical to what you’ll see when you vote, but will provide the same information. They are different than the sample ballots often provided by the major political parties. Those ballots, which you may receive in the mail or be offered by volunteers as you approach your polling entrance, feature the candidates representing that party.