Register to Vote and Check or Change Registration

Learn if you're eligible to vote, how to register, check, or update your information. Find the deadline to register to vote in your state.

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:

Back to Top

Video: Guide for the New Voter

If you're getting ready to vote for the first time, this short video can help. It goes over the basic requirements for voting in the U.S., and explains why it's important to know your state's specific rules for voting.

Back to Top

Register to Vote

If you need to register to vote, visit Vote.gov. Depending on your state’s voter registration rules, the site can help you

  • Register online. This is available for 37 states plus the District of Columbia.
  • 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.

Start Your Voter Registration

Register to Vote in Person

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:  

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.

Learn About the Voting Process

If you have questions about the steps involved in voting, these guides from the Election Assistance Commission are a good place to start:

Voter Registration Deadlines

Every state except North Dakota requires citizens to register if they want to become voters. Depending on your state, the registration deadline could be as much as a month before an election. 

Check the U.S. Vote Foundation to find your state's deadline for registering. You can also check your state or territory's election office for more details. 

Back to Top

Who Can and Who Can’t Vote

Who Can Vote?

Check with your state or local election office for any questions about who can and cannot vote. Use this interactive map to earn more about what type of ID if any is required to vote in your state.

You can vote in U.S. elections if you:

  • Are a U.S. citizen
  • Meet your state’s residency requirements
  • Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
    • In some states, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day.
  • Are registered to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline. North Dakota does not require voter registration.

Who CAN’T Vote?

Who May Have Problems Voting Due to State or Local Requirements?

  • People who don’t present the types of voter ID required in their state
  • People who have changed their name or permanent address and have not updated their voter registration
  • People whose name or address on their ID doesn't match the name or address on their voter registration
  • People who go to vote on Election Day at a polling place that is not their assigned polling location

Who May Have Problems Voting Due to Logistics?

Back to Top

Check or Change Your Voter Registration

Every state runs elections in its own way, based on Article I and Article II of the Constitution. This includes deciding who can and cannot vote. Your state and local election offices will have the exact voting rules for your state.

Every state except North Dakota requires voters to register. Register to vote now.

If You’ve Recently Registered to Vote or Changed Your Registration

It may take a few weeks to get your new voter registration card in the mail.

How to Check or Change Your Registration Information

  • You can check and may be able to change your registration  online through Can I Vote. This includes your name, address, and political party.
  • If you need more help, contact your state or local election office to change your voter registration. Depending on your state’s rules:
    • You may be able to make changes to your registration over the phone, online, or by mail.
    • Your state may require you to register to vote again to change your information.

Why You Should Check Your Registration Information

Each state has different ways to keep voter registration lists up-to-date. Most purge, or delete, the names of inactive voters. If your election office purges your registration and you don’t discover it before you go to vote, you may have to cast a provisional ballot. Checking ahead of time to be sure you are still registered to vote ensures:

  • Your name, address, and party affiliation information are up-to-date
  • Your registration wasn’t mistakenly purged by your state from the list of eligible voters
  • You are able to vote
  • You’re voting at the correct polling place

How to Check and Change Your Political Party Affiliation

Your political party affiliation is the party that you choose to associate with. You may be asked your party affiliation when you register to vote.

  • You are not required to join a political party or reveal your party preference when you register to vote.
  • Not every state accepts or lists a party affiliation on a voter registration card.
  • You can check and may be able to change your party affiliation online through Can I Vote. You may also contact your state or local election office.

You can always choose to vote for a candidate from any party in a general election, like a presidential, congressional, or mayoral election.

Your party affiliation is usually only important in primary elections. Many states have “closed” primaries. This means that you can only vote for your party’s candidates in its primary election. Learn about the different types of primary elections.

When You Should Re-Register or Change Your Registration Information

  • Anytime you’ve changed your name
  • Anytime you’ve moved permanently
    • You’re not permitted to vote in more than one place. When you register to vote in a new location, you’ll give them your previous address. Your new election office will tell your old election office to cancel your registration with them.
    • Vote in your new location after you’ve changed your registration address.

When You Do NOT Have to Re-Register to Vote or Change Your Registration Information

  • If your name and address have not changed and you’re an active voter, you should not have to re-register to vote or update your voter registration. Once you’re registered, you are eligible to vote in all elections in your area including:
    • Federal, state, and local elections
    • Primary, general, and special elections
    • Ballot initiatives, referenda, bond issues, and other legislation that appears on the ballot

Back to Top

Video: Guide for Checking Your Registration

If you have already registered to vote, you may want to check your registration to make sure it is up-to-date. This short video will explain why it is important to check and how easy it is to do.

Share This Page: Facebook Twitter Email

Back to Top

Do you need help?

Ask us any question about the U.S. government for free. We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it.

What you think matters!

Last Updated: October 10, 2018