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How to register to vote

And why you should register to vote right now

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Missourians Vote In 2020 Primary Election Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Voting gives eligible American citizens a small but meaningful voice in choosing the people who will represent them and make decisions and laws for their country. Unfortunately, the processes of registering to vote in the United States can get a little bit complicated, and it can differ depending on what state you live in.

To help shed a bit of light on the process, here’s how to register to vote — at least in most states.


Table of contents


Get a state ID

While state IDs aren’t strictly necessary to register to vote in every state, the chances are good that you’ll need to have one at one step or another in the process, so it’s a good idea to get that first. To do that, you’ll need to provide proof of citizenship, proof of residency at a valid address, and (most often) your Social Security Number. In most states, you’ll need to head to a local Department of Motor Vehicles office to get your ID card. For a guide on how to get an ID in each state, you can check out this helpful page from Rocket Lawyer.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many DMVs around the country currently require appointments, and some are booked for the next several weeks or months. You’ll want to try to get an appointment at your local DMV as soon as possible to get your ID.

While an ID can be very helpful for registering to vote, many states also require them for the actual practice of voting as well. To check what your state will require when you show up to vote on election day, check out this page from the National Conference of State Legislators.

Registering in person to vote

Every state offers the ability to register to vote in-person, usually at a local election office and sometimes at the DMV. You’ll need proper identification and the necessary paperwork, which you can print out from home, or you may use a local library to print the paperwork. To find out exactly what you’ll need to register in person, visit vote.gov and select your state from the drop-down menu.

Just like with the IDs, any business that requires the use of a DMV while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing will likely require an appointment. Because appointments are sometimes scheduled several weeks in advance, you’ll want to schedule yours as early as possible.

Registering online to vote

This is the easiest way to register to vote, and it’s an available option for most states. However, each state has specific requirements for how to register to vote online. To figure out exactly how you can register online to vote, go to vote.gov. Next select your state (or territory) and follow the prompts to start your registration. Or you can just click on your state in the list below.

Here’s a list of states that allow online voter registration:

How to register to vote by mail

While most states offer the ability to register online, a few states are limited to in-person or mail-in registration. In those states, you’ll need to print off the specific form and either bring it to the DMV — as described above — or mail it in per your state’s instructions, which you can find at vote.gov.

Here are the states where you’ll need to mail in your registration or register in person:

I live in North Dakota. Why isn’t it on any of these voting lists?

North Dakota is noticeably absent from these lists because you do not need to register to vote in North Dakota. All you need to do to vote in North Dakota is have a state ID with a valid and current address. Refer to the ID section of this post for information on how to get that.

I think I’m registered to vote, but I’m not sure

There’s actually a website to check whether or not your state has your voter registration on file. It’s on the website of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and it usually requires your name and birthday to see if you’re registered. If you follow these steps and it says your registration is fine, then you’re good to go. If not, search for your state in this post and get started on registering.

When is the deadline for registration in each state?

As you can probably guess if you’ve made it this far, the deadline for each state is different, so here you go:

  • Alabama

In Person: 15 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 15 days before Election Day

Online: 15 days before Election Day

  • Alaska

In Person: 30 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day. If this falls on a Sunday, postmarked 31 days before Election Day.

Online: 30 days before Election Day

  • Arizona

In Person: 29 days before Election Day, or on the next immediate business day if the deadline falls on a legal holiday or weekend.

By Mail: Postmarked 29 days before Election Day, or on the next immediate business day if the deadline falls on a legal holiday or weekend.

Online: 29 days before Election Day

  • Arkansas

In Person: 30 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day. If this falls on a Sunday, postmarked 29 days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • California

In Person: 15 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 15 days before Election Day

Online: 15 days before Election Day

  • Colorado

In Person: Election Day

By Mail: Received 8 days before Election Day

Online: 8 days before Election Day

  • Connecticut

In Person: 7 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 7 days before Election Day

Online: 7 days before Election Day

  • Delaware

In Person: 24 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 24 days before Election Day

Online: The fourth Saturday before Election Day

  • District of Columbia

In Person: Election Day, with proof of residency

By Mail: Received 21 days before Election Day

Online: 21 days before Election Day

  • Florida

In Person: 24 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 29 days before Election Day

Online: 29 days before Election Day

  • Georgia

In Person: 24 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 29 days before Election Day

Online: The fifth Monday before Election Day

  • Hawaii

In Person: 30 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day

Online: 30 days before Election Day

  • Idaho

In Person: 24 days before Election Day. If you miss this deadline, you may also register on Election Day. (You must show proof of residence to register at the polls on Election Day.)

By Mail: Postmarked 25 days before Election Day.

Online: 25 days before Election Day.

  • Illinois

In Person: 27 days before Election Day, after which you may register during the early voting period through Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 28 days before Election Day

Online: 16 days before Election Day

  • Indiana

In Person: 29 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 29 days before Election Day

Online: 29 days before Election Day

  • Iowa

In Person: 10 days before Election Day. If you miss the deadline you can also register to vote in-person during early vote or on Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 15 days before Election Day or received 10 days before Election Day

Online: 10 days before Election Day

  • Kansas

In Person: 21 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 21 days before Election Day

Online: 21 days before Election Day

  • Kentucky

In Person: 29 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 29 days before Election Day

Online: 29 days before Election Day

  • Louisiana

In Person: 30 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day

Online: 20 days before Election Day

  • Maine

In Person: Election Day

By Mail: Received 21 business days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • Maryland

In Person: 21 days before Election Day. You may also register during early voting or on Election Day with proof of address.

By Mail: Postmarked 21 days before Election Day

Online: 21 days before Election Day

  • Massachusetts

In Person: 20 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 20 days before Election Day

Online: 20 days before Election Day

  • Michigan

In Person: 15 days before Election Day. Or Election Day at your city or township clerk office.

By Mail: Postmarked 15 days before Election Day

Online: 15 days before Election Day

  • Minnesota

In Person: Election Day

By Mail: Received 21 days before Election Day

Online: 21 days before Election Day

  • Mississippi

In Person: 30 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • Missouri

In Person: 27 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 27 days before Election Day

Online: 27 days before Election Day

  • Montana

In Person: Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day or received 27 days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • Nebraska

In Person: 11 days before Election day

By Mail: Postmarked 18 days before Election Day or received 14 days before Election Day if there’s an illegible postmark

Online: 18 days before Election Day

  • Nevada

In Person: Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 28 days before Election Day

Online: 5 days before Election Day

  • New Hampshire

In Person: Election Day. Before Election Day, the last day to register is the last meeting of the Supervisors of the Checklist. The supervisors meet once, 6-13 days before Election Day

By Mail: Received between 6 and 13 days before Election Day depending on which town you live in

Online: N/A

  • New Jersey

In Person: 21 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 21 days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • New Mexico

In Person: Saturday before Election day at the county clerk’s office. 28 days before Election Day otherwise

By Mail: Postmarked 28 days before Election Day. However, an application may be accepted through the Friday following the deadline if the application is postmarked before the deadline

Online: 28 days before Election Day

  • New York

In Person: 25 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 25 days before Election Day or received 20 days before Election Day

Online: 25 days before Election Day

  • North Carolina

In Person: The Saturday before Election Day if voting early in person. Otherwise 25 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 25 days before Election Day. If the postmark is missing or unclear, the application will still be processed if it is received 20 days before Election Day

Online: 25 days before Election Day

  • North Dakota

North Dakota residence do not need to register to vote. They only need to bring valid proof of ID and residency to the polls to vote

  • Ohio

In Person: 30 days before Election Day, extended to the next business day if this falls on a Sunday

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day, extended to the next business day if this falls on a Sunday

Online: 30 days before Election Day

  • Oklahoma

In Person: 25 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 25 days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • Oregon

In Person: 21 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 21 days before Election Day

Online: 21 days before Election Day

  • Pennsylvania

In Person: 15 days before Election Day

By Mail: Received 15 days before Election Day

Online: 15 days before Election Day

  • Rhode Island

In Person: 30 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day. If the postmark is missing or unclear and the registration form is received no later than 5 days after the deadline, the dinvidual shall be presumed to have registered by the deadline

Online: 30 days before Election Day

  • South Carolina

In Person: 30 days before Election Day. If this falls on a Sunday, the last preceeding day that the county board of voter registration and elections is open

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day, the deadline is extended to the next business day if this falls on a Sunday

Online: 30 days before Election Day

  • South Dakota

In Person: 15 days before Election Day

By Mail: Received 15 days before Election Day

Online: N/A

  • Tennessee

In Person: 30 days before Election Day. If this falls on a Sunday, 29 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day, the deadline is extended if this falls on a Sunday

Online: 30 days before Election Day

  • Texas

In Person: 30 days before Election Day. If this falls on a Sunday, 29 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day, the deadline is extended to the next business day if this falls on a Sunday

Online: N/A

  • Utah

In Person: 7 days before Election Day in clerk’s office, but may also register during early vote and on Election Day. However, individuals must vote by provisional ballot if they: (i) register online or in person between 7 and 14 days before Election Day, (ii) register during early voting, or (iii) register on Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 30 days before Election Day, the deadline is extended to the next business day if this falls on a Sunday

Online: 7 days before Election Day

  • Vermont

In Person: Election Day (you must show proof of residence to register at the polls on Election Day)

By Mail: Received Election Day

Online: Election Day. But if you register online the day before or on Election Day, your application may not be processed and your name may not appear on the checklist and you may be asked to fill out another application at the polls. To be sure your name appears on the checklist , please register by the Friday before Election Day

  • Virginia

In Person: 22 days before Election Day. If this day falls on a Sunday, 21 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 22 days before Election Day, the deadline is extended to the next business day if this falls on a Sunday

Online: 22 days before Election Day

  • Washington

In Person: Election Day

By Mail: Received 8 days before Election Day

Online: 8 days before Election Day

  • West Virginia

In Person: 21 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 21 days before Election Day

Online: 21 days before Election Day

  • Wisconsin

In Person: The Friday before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked the 3rd Wednesday before Election Day

Online: 20 days before Election Day

  • Wyoming

In Person: 14 days before Election Day

By Mail: Postmarked 14 days before Election Day. After this date, individuals may register to vote by mail if their registration is also accompanied by an absentee ballot request

Online: N/A

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