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USAGov’s Guide for First Time Voters

Date: August 30, 2018
Empty chairs in line

Are you a new voter? Maybe you’re turning 18, or you decided to get involved in the electoral process for the first time in your life. Either way, there’s a lot to learn.

This is a midterm year, which means this is an election between presidential elections. Voters will be choosing candidates for all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 seats in the Senate. The results will determine which political party controls each house of Congress for the next two years. There are also 36 governorships and many mayoral and local races on ballots across the country.

Make sure you’re ready to go to the polls this November 6. Check out USAGov’s top five frequently asked voting questions.

Can I vote?

You can vote if you are a U.S. citizen and meet your state’s residency and other requirements. In every state, you must be at least 18 on or before Election Day to vote, but you may be able to register if you’re younger. Check out your state’s voter registration age and learn about other rules including the ID you may need to show when you vote.

Remember, you must be registered to vote by your state’s registration deadline. It could be as much as a month before Election Day, so mark your calendar and make sure you don’t miss it.

How do I register?

If you meet the requirements, you can begin the registration process at Online registration is available for 37 states plus the District of Columbia. If you can’t register on the web, will help you get started with your state’s mail or in-person registration process.

Need to check or change your voter registration? If you have voted before but it’s been a while, check to be sure your name hasn’t been purged from the voter list. And if you move or change your name, you’ll need to update your registration or re-register. Visit Can I Vote. Depending on where you live, you may be able to check and update your information online. If you need more help, contact your state or local election office.

How do I learn more about the candidates?

The first step is figuring out what you're looking for in a candidate. Debates are a good way to learn about the candidates and where they stand on issues. Learn about the techniques candidates may use to distort information and sway your perceptions of them and their opponents.

If a candidate is up for re-election or coming from another public office, you can look at their record. Visit for candidates running for re-election in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. For state office candidates, contact your state legislature website. For candidates in county or local offices, contact your local government.

Can I vote early or absentee?

Just because you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day doesn’t mean you can’t vote. Even though it varies by state, you may have the option to cast an absentee ballot or even vote early. Military families and Americans living abroad can also vote from overseas. Learn if early or absentee voting is available in your state and how to start the process. Keep in mind, the process takes longer than voting domestically, so be sure to start as soon as possible.

Where do I vote?

If you’re planning to vote in person on Election Day, it’s important to know your assigned polling place. If you go to another one, you may only be able to cast a provisional ballot, which is kept separate until an official decides if it can be counted. Contact your election office for the most up-to-date information on your polling place, including voting hours and accommodations for disabilities.

Remember to make a plan ahead of time for Election Day. Will you vote in the morning or afternoon? Do you need to find a ride or take time off to get to the polls?

If you have more questions about voting, is your first stop for anything related to the 2018 midterm elections. You can also ask questions on’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • Are you ready to vote for the first time? If you’re a U.S. citizen, meet your state’s requirements, and will be 18 by Election Day, you can vote.

    But first, you need to register before your state’s deadline. Check with your local election office. You can register there or you may be able to register online, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or using the National Mail Voter Registration Form.

    Your election office may send you a voter registration card listing your polling place. On Election Day, that’s where you’ll go. When you get there, you may need to show an ID to vote. Then, fill out your ballot. If you don’t know how, ask a poll worker. If you know you won’t be able to get there on Election Day, you may qualify to vote by mail.

    Remember, voting rules are different in every state. Learn more about voting at  

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