Some of us have older teens who are really excited to vote this year. But because each state manages their own voting policies, it can be confusing as to how, when, and where to register to vote.
We all know that if you’re 18 on or before election day — November 3, 2020, if you don’t already have it drilled into your head — then you are eligible to cast your ballot. But, when exactly can your teen register to vote? You don’t necessarily have to be 18 yet.
It may even surprise you that in some states, you can pre-register to vote as young as 16 years old.
So, what are the registration guidelines in your state, and how do you register your teen to vote? Here’s a primer in three easy steps.
1. First, find the voter registration age requirements for your state
If you will be 18 on or before November 3, 2020, then you can vote for our next president, and just as importantly, candidates up and down the ballot representing you at the community, city and state levels. But — HUGE caveat here — in some states you have to pre-register first.
Each state allows teens to register to vote at a different age. It can be confusing, so visit this link to check your state’s requirements for voter registration to be clear how soon (or how late) you can register.
For example, I learned that in New York, you can pre-register to vote when you turn 16. In Missouri, you have to be 17 1/2. In Louisiana, you can pre-register in person at age 16, but you have to be 17 to register any other way. In North Dakota, you don’t have to register to vote at all, it’s automatic.
(Ed note: ALL states should be making it automatic and easy!)
We love this Vote print by Lindsey Vanderploeg on Etsy! Just $30 in her shop.
2. Next, check the voter registration deadline for your state
Many states require you to complete your registration before election day. Again, each state has different deadlines for completing your voter registration and if you will be 18 by Election Day, make sure you’re registered by your own state’s deadline!
In South Carolina, the deadline is 30 days before an election. In Pennsylvania, it’s 15 days before. In Vermont, you can wait to register at a polling place on election day — although, that sounds like it could be chaotic and I’d recommend registering early. And then in Rhode Island, you must register 30 days in advance, but during Presidential election years only, you can actually register in person at your local Board of Canvassers.
Check now; don’t wait and hope you can just vote when you arrive.
Related: Where to find the “Vote like a Mother” swag we love
3. Finally, register to vote!
We need all voices to be heard in this election year, more than ever — and that especially goes for young people 18-29 who are statistically the least likely demographic to vote — by a lot. So here’s what we recommend:
– Click on your state at Vote.org, and you’ll see options to check your registration, register to vote, request an absentee ballot, find your polling place, and more.
– Visit Rock the Vote, which helps you register to vote and more. They can send you info about which elections are coming up in your state and local areas, and even preview of what else will be on your ballot in November, including ballot initiatives. This can help voters of any age do research if you need, and make the voting process as smooth as possible for everyone.
– Last, be sure to check vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/ to confirm your registration.
Let’s do this!
Top photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash