Voting is a civic responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. But, for new or first-time voters, the process can feel a bit overwhelming. What do you need to bring when you vote? Do you need your driver's license, or can you vote without one? What is the deadline for registering to vote? Can you register to vote when you take driving lessons or take your driver's test?
Below, we'll answer these questions and provide the resources you need to determine the rules in your state. Each state has its own voting and election regulations, including what you need to vote, the deadlines for registering, and whether or not you need a photo ID to vote.
Step 1: Register to Vote
The first step is to register to vote in your state of residence. If you are attending college in another state, you may need to register to vote in your home state. You can register to vote by mail or when you get your driver's license at the DMV.
When Is the Deadline to Register to Vote?
The deadline to register to vote varies by state, but most states require voters to register between 15 and 30 days before election day. However, twenty-one states permit election-day registration, where you can register and vote on the same day. Note that most states that allow same-day voter registration require voters to bring a state-issued ID or driver's license to register.
Step 2: Research Your Local Election Laws & Requirements
The requirements to vote vary by state. Some states do not require voters to bring a driver's license or state-issued ID card, while others do. For example, voters do not need a driver's license in Illinois if they are already registered to vote at their current address, are voting at the correct precinct, and their signature matches the signature on file.
In Alabama, all voters must present an accepted ID, which may include a valid driver's license, non-driver ID, state-issued ID, Alabama school college ID, military ID, or valid tribal ID.
What Do I Need to Take with Me to Vote?
Whether or not your state requires it, it is always a safe idea to bring your driver's license or some form of photo ID with you when you vote. If you have a voting card, keeping this with you might also make the process easier once you get to the polling station.
You can check the voting requirements for your state, including whether or not you need an ID to vote on Ballotpedia.
Step 3: Vote Before the Deadline
Next, make sure you submit your ballot before the voting deadline. If you are voting in person, the voting deadline is election day. If you vote by mail, you may need to cast your ballot a few days before election day to ensure it reaches voting officials on time.
Some states also offer early voting, allowing voters to cast their ballot several days or weeks before election day.
When Is the Deadline to Vote for the 2020 General Election?
The deadline to vote for the 2020 presidential election is November 3, 2020. However, if you vote by absentee ballot or mail-in ballot, the deadline may be up to before 15 days before election day.
Step 4: Follow Up if You Use a Mail-In Ballot
Voting by mail or absentee ballot allows you to cast your vote without the hassle of showing up in person on election day. However, votes by mail can be rejected if they arrive late, aren't correctly filled out, or if the signature on the ballot does not match the signature on file.
Several states offer mail-in ballot tracking so you can verify your vote arrived and was counted. If you vote by mail, check to see if your state offers this so you can ensure your vote counts!