Posted: 5 Min Read Election Security

Everything You Need to Know About Voting this November

Faced with a welter of sometimes confusing regulations, here’s what you need to know about voting in the mid-term elections

Voting should be just about the easiest thing you do in a democracy, but unfortunately, it can be a lot more complicated than it need be. So we’ve put together this guide to help you vote in the upcoming mid-term election. You’ll find out how to register, how to vote early, how to find the poll where you’ll vote, how to get a ride there for free and more. So look below for any questions you have, and then make sure to go out and vote.

Find Out Where and How To Vote

There’s no single system for voting in the U.S. It’s handled differently in each of the 50 states. The way you register, where and how you vote, whether you can vote early, and voting hours vary from state to state. So if you have any questions, head to the U.S. Vote Foundation’s Election Official Directory & State Voting Requirements & Information website. Just tell the site where you live, and you’ll be sent to pages with information on everything you need, from voting places and times to eligibility requirements, and more. You can even use it to check whether you’re registered to vote.

If you want to register by mail, and your deadline hasn’t passed, go to the U.S. Election Commission and download, fill out and mail in a national mail registration form. Follow the instructions carefully, because it will be different for each state.

Meet the Voting Registration Deadline

In most states, you can’t just walk into a polling place and vote — you first need to register ahead of time. Depending on your state, you’ll be able to register online, in person, or by mail. There’s a deadline for registering, though, and it varies by state.

Thirteen states let you register to vote up to and including until election day, although in some cases you’ll have to cast a provisional ballot, which means your vote will be counted only after the state verifies you’re eligible to vote. Depending on the state you may need to have an acceptable proof of ID and residency when you register on election day. States that allow you to register at the polls when you go to vote on election day include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Illinois has a “Grace Period” registration that allows you to register up until election day. See details here.

As to the deadline for registering ahead of time, that varies according to the state. By late October, apart from the states listed above that let you register on election day, the deadlines for registering for most states have passed. However, a few still let you register. Colorado lets you register by mail or online until October 29, or in person on election day; Connecticut lets you register in person, by mail or online until Oct. 30, or in person on election day; Iowa lets you register online until Oct. 27 or in person on election day; Nebraska lets you register in person up until October 26; North Carolina lets you register and vote at the same time at a “one-stop” early voting site until November 3; Utah lets you register in person or online until October 30; Vermont lets you register online or in person until election day; Washington lets you register in person up until October 29; Wisconsin lets you register in person up until election day; Wyoming lets you register in person up until election day.

If you want to register by mail, and your deadline hasn’t passed, go to the U.S. Election Commission and download, fill out and mail in a national mail registration form. Follow the instructions carefully, because it will be different for each state.

The New York Times has a detailed rundown of state-by-state registration deadlines and requirements.

How to Vote Early or Cast an Absentee Ballot

It’s getting increasingly old-fashioned to refer to the first Tuesday in November (November 6, this year) as election day, because most states allow for in-person and mail-in early voting. You can also cast an absentee ballot by mail. The rules concerning when and how to vote early and by absentee ballot vary not just state by state, but even by municipality. So check the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) page covering early voting and the NCSL page covering absentee ballots and early voting for details. You can also check with your municipality.

How to Vote on Election Day

When it’s election day, if you haven’t voted early or cast an absentee ballot, you’ll need to find your voting place and get there. The easiest way to find out where to vote and voting hours is to check out the Vote.org polling place locator.

Depending on your state, you may be asked to provide a form of identification when you vote. To find out what you might need to bring, head to the NCSL page that covers voter ID laws in all states. If you get to the polls, don’t have an ID and you’re told you can’t vote, ask to cast a provisional ballot. The NCSL page on provisional voting has details on how to do it. If you’re turned away at the polls, or something just doesn’t feel right there, call an election protection hotline.

If you need a ride to get to your voting place, both Uber and Lyft are offering free or discounted rides to the polls. Here are details about how anyone can get a free ride to the polls with Uber. Here’s how you can get half-off for a ride to the polls with Lyft, or a free ride if you’re part of an underserved community.

Get More Voting Information

If you want even more information, head to Vote.org, which gives you resources for the entire gamut of the voting process. When We All Vote is another good resource, as is Democracy Works.

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About the Author

Preston Gralla

Technical Writer

Preston Gralla has written thousands of articles and nearly 50 books about technology. His work has been published in Computerworld, PC World, PC Magazine, USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, the Los Angeles Times and many others.

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