Voting Rules in the U.S. Are Different in Every State
Federal and state elections in the United States are run by the states themselves, according to Article I and Article II of the Constitution. No two states run their elections exactly the same, so contacting your state or local election office is the best way to find out about your state’s unique election rules.
The Basic Steps to Vote are the Same in Most States
Despite the differences in how states run elections, the basic steps to vote are the same almost everywhere.
Every state except North Dakota requires you to register to vote.
Every state has absentee voting.
Most states assign you a specific polling place, or voting location. A few states have ballot drop sites instead.
These voting guides explain the basics of voting, no matter where you live:
Download the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can fill it out onscreen and print the completed form, or print the blank form and fill it out by hand. Remember to sign the form before mailing it to the location listed for your state.
Find guidance for states and territories with different registration procedures.
You can register in person with your state or local election office. If it’s more convenient for you to register elsewhere, you can check with one of these nearby public facilities to see if you can register to vote there:
State and county public assistance offices (SNAP/food stamps, WIC, services for the disabled), where you may fill out and submit a National Mail Voter Registration Form.
Overseas and Military Voters
If you’re a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S., or if you’re a service member, service member’s spouse, or eligible family member, you can register to vote and request an absentee ballot through the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
Register to Vote in Other Languages
The National Mail Voter Registration Form, which you must print, complete, sign, and mail to the location listed for your state, is available in Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
Voter's guides, which include information on registering to vote, are available in Cherokee, Chinese, Dakota, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yupik.
The deadline to register to vote varies from state to state and by election. States hold primary, state, and local elections throughout the year and the deadline to register to vote for those elections will vary depending on the date of the election.
Why You Should Check Your Registration Information
To ensure your information is up to date if you’ve moved or changed your name and aren’t sure you updated your registration
To ensure your registration wasn’t mistakenly purged by your state
What to Know About Checking and Updating Your Political Party Affiliation
If you’re checking to see which political party you’re registered with, keep in mind that you may not be registered with any political party. This could be because:
Your state doesn’t accept party affiliations.
You didn’t indicate a party preference when you registered to vote.
You can register to vote and participate in general elections and nonpartisan primary elections without ever choosing a party affiliation.
If you are registered with a political party, that will not limit you to voting for that party’s candidate in the general election. You can vote for any candidate on the ballot.
When You Should Re-Register or Update Your Registration Information
Anytime you’ve changed your name
Anytime you’ve moved permanently
You can’t vote in more than one place. When you register to vote in a new location, you’ll be asked for your previous address. Your new election office will send a cancellation form to your previous election office.
When You Do NOT Have to Re-Register to Vote or Update Your Registration Information
If your name and address have not changed, you should not have to re-register to vote or to update your voter registration. Once you register, you are registered to vote in all
Federal, state, and local elections
Primary, general, and special elections
However, state procedures on maintaining their voter registration rolls vary. If your registration is removed and you don’t discover this before you go to vote, you may have to cast a provisional ballot. That is why it is always a good idea to check your registration status before any election in which you want to vote.
If you’ll be requesting an absentee ballot because you’ll be temporarily away from home during the election, you should not change your address in your voter registration. Such situations include:
Being away on vacation or business travel
Serving in the military, or being a military family member, outside your state of legal residence