One of the most consequential methods of engaging in democracy begins at the ballot box where we vote for our interests, values, and beliefs. However, before heading to the polls and changing the world one “I Voted” sticker at a time, you must register to vote. Registering to vote is the essential vehicle for ensuring that your voice is represented in our democracy, from local to federal levels. Registering to vote can feel overwhelming and confusing, especially for first-time voters who may not know where to even begin. But with the right tools and information, voter registration can be super simple!
You have a few options when it comes to putting your name on one of the most influential lists there is — the voter rolls. There are three options for registering to vote:
- Using The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s my.VoteEverywhere portal
Perhaps the most efficient and digitally savvy way of registering is by using The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s my.VoteEverywhere portal, a one-stop-shop for voter and election information. Registering through my.VoteEverywhere takes about two minutes to complete and is a guided process through the steps specific to the address at which you wish to register. my.VoteEverywhere also provides tools for checking your registration status, learning whether you need voter ID to vote in your state, finding your polling place, and more.
- Going to your Secretary of State’s website
You can also visit your state’s voter registration site for comprehensive information on the process by typing in your state’s name followed by “voter registration” into a search engine of your choice. More than likely, you will be led to your state’s website for your Secretary of State, the government official that keeps state records and serves as the chief election official.
- Using the National Voter Registration Form
Another great resource is the National Voter Registration Form, which is accepted nationwide. This document provides information about each state as well as a form that you can print, fill out, and return.
After you’ve reviewed your state’s eligibility requirements and other important information pertaining to your registration, you should be prepared to provide some details to complete the form. Even though each state’s process is different, there are a few things that are consistent across all states. You will be asked for your name, address, date of birth, and identification number. Your driver’s license number or social security number will be sufficient for completing the identification portion, and if you do not have either, the voter registration form you are using will instruct you on how to fill in that requirement. Additional questions may include party affiliation, race or ethnic group, and telephone number.
One thing that certainly isn’t lacking in the voter registration process is options! If you choose to use a digital tool such as the aforementioned my.VoteEverywhere portal, you will be able to submit your form online so long as your state accepts online voter registration. While 40 states plus the District of Columbia have online voter registration available, it is important to note that not every state accepts it. If your state requires a physical form, the online registration tool will provide you with the necessary form so that you can print it and either deliver it by mail to your provided state’s address or in person to your local voter registration office.
After you submit your form and you’ve had a chance to celebrate your civic engagement, there are a few things you can expect. A couple of weeks after submission, you should receive a voter registration card in the mail. Once you receive the card in the mail, visit my.VoteEverywhere or your Secretary of State’s website to double-check your voter registration status, confirm that you are ready to vote in the next election, and see your assigned polling place.
Once you’ve voted in a few elections and you’ve become a ballot boss, there are a handful of habits you may want to adopt as voting best practices.
- Check your status about a month and a half before an upcoming election. This gives you time to make edits or adjustments before it’s time to cast your ballot.
- Update your voter registration when you move or change your name. Any change in address or name requires you to update your voter registration.
- Get your friends to vote! Now that you’re empowered with the knowledge you need to impact change in your community through voting, you can help register your friends, family, and neighbors!
Being a registered voter is a powerful tool to have in your civic engagement toolbox, but it is simply the first step in becoming a democratically engaged citizen. Voting in every election and contacting your elected officials to hold them accountable are just a couple of other means of impacting change in your community. There’s room for everyone at the civic engagement table, and the opportunities to organize for issues you care about are limitless!
About the Author
Kaylee Valencia is the Program Manager at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. Kaylee is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.