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The midterm elections are coming up on Tuesday, November 6. If you’re not registered, go here now and change that. (If you’re not sure, check here.) Whether it’s your first time voting or not, you may still have some questions about how everything works. Below, Rock the Vote attempts to answer them all.
Understand the Basics About Registering to Vote
I’m a student. Should I register at home or at school?
The Census, which determines representation and districting, counts students at school, but students can legally register and vote at either location. Consider the voting laws in your state and what will work with your schedule so you are most likely to be able to participate.
Will registering to vote at one address over another affect my financial aid?
Absolutely not. You can register at either your home or school address, regardless of your address on financial aid.
Does registering to vote mean I can get picked for jury duty?
You can get picked for jury duty without registering to vote.
If I miss registering to vote, I can’t vote, right?
Not necessarily. Some states have same-day registration in which individuals can show up to the polls on Election Day and register. Check your state at rockthevote.org to be sure and use this as your last option.
Do I need to register to vote every election?
It’s important to check the status of your voter registration status to make sure it’s active and has your current address. You can do this at rockthevote.org. Most states require you to reregister if you move, even if you moved between the state’s primary and general elections.
Check Your State’s ID Laws
Not all states have restrictive ID laws, but some do. Check ID requirements in your state by visiting rockthevote.org to determine if you need a new ID to vote. Don’t wait until the last minute: Allow yourself enough time to get a new one if you need to.
I need an ID to vote, right?
It depends. Some require a simple form of ID. Some require very specific forms of ID. Some don’t require one at all. It’s best to check rockthevote.org early to determine if you have an acceptable form of ID to vote in your state.
What if I don’t have money or time to get a new ID? Or I’m not sure how to get one?
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Spread the Vote is a partner organization of Rock the Vote’s that works to help voters get the IDs they need.
Look to See if You Have Flexible Voting Options
Every state is different so check rockthevote.org for options in your state.
An absentee ballot, sometimes called vote by mail, allows voters a flexible option to complete a ballot, usually in the comfort of their home, and then mail or drop it off. Voters need to request an absentee ballot well in advance of the election. Often states have deadlines by which voters need to request and postmark their absentee ballot. Some states almost only vote by mail. Check rockthevote.org for information on your state’s deadline and process for requesting and sending in an absentee ballot.
Early voting, sometimes called in-person absentee, allows individuals to complete a ballot in person in advance of Election Day. Oftentimes polling locations are different than those on Election Day and can in some cases be more flexible. Days and times may also be more flexible with some states having early voting hours on the weekends or into the evenings. Go to rockthevote.org to find your early-vote options, including polling locations, days, and hours.
Don’t I need an excuse to vote early or by absentee?
Not necessarily. Some states don’t require an excuse. Those that do require an excuse just need to know there is a reasonable chance you won’t be available to vote in-person on Election Day. Examples of acceptable excuses include “I won’t be able to get out of work,” “I will probably be out of town,” and “I can’t miss class and don’t think I’ll have a ride available to get to the polls.”
Look Up Your Sample Ballot and Do Some Research
Take an hour or so to research who and what are on your ballot.
Go to rockthevote.org and enter your address to see your sample ballot, which includes a list of what and who you can vote for along with links to candidates’ websites and social media feeds so you can see what they are all about.
Prep for In-Person Voting
Get your polling place, hours, and what you need to bring.
Go to rockthevote.org and enter your address to find your specific polling location and hours along with what you need to take with you to vote.
Make a plan to hold yourself accountable.
When are you going to go vote–morning, daytime, weekend, evening? Who are you going with? How are you going to celebrate? Do you need to print or save your sample ballot with selections so you can easily fill out your ballot?
Make It Social
Find a friend or two to hold one another accountable and to make the process more fun.
- If you all request absentee ballots, get together one evening to research, fill them out, and mail them in.
- Early voting often is a lot more flexible and allows voters from different areas of the city to vote at the same location so make a voting date and then go out for brunch after.
- On Election Day, drive to the polls together after class and then attend a watch party while wearing your “I Voted” sticker.
- Or go to rockthevote.org to see where there are voting parties in your community.
Put this Number in Your Phone Under “Election Protection Hotline”
If you have any questions or issues at the polls, call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. That’s 1-866-687-8683. They will be able to help you or will record the report and alert lawyers to the issues.
Carolyn DeWitt is the president of Rock the Vote.