The Right to Vote: What You Need to Know About Becoming a Registered Voter

Voting is one of the cornerstones of American democracy, but in order to actually cast a ballot, you have to register to do so first. While this is usually easy, there are three things you have to keep in mind before you register to vote.

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How to Register

The ways that you can register to vote depend on your state. Some states accept only paper forms for voter registrations, and other states allow you to register to vote online. Furthermore, there are different identification requirements for registration and voting, all of which vary by state. While these requirements are not usually overwhelming, it’s better to check what you need before you actually register to vote so that you can get it done right and make sure you’re registered in time for the next election.

Your Responsibilities

Being registered to vote does require some responsibilities. In most states, you have to vote at least once every few years in order to stay active and on the voter lists. If you register to vote in another state, you will have to make sure that you do not attempt to vote in the old location. Keep in mind that registered voters may be called to serve on a jury, although it is also possible to be called to serve on a jury if you aren’t registered.

Deadlines and Timeframes

Deadlines as to when you can register to vote vary from state to state. Some states are more restrictive, requiring you to register up to a month or longer before a primary or general election. Other states, however, allow for same-day voter registration. This means that you can actually register to vote and then cast your very first ballot on the same day. Keep in mind that the above notes about how you can register to vote may impact deadlines as well. For example, states with same-day registration options may require that you register at a county courthouse, or you may be able to register directly at your polling place from an internet-connected device.

As you can see, the specifics about where, when and how you can register to vote vary wildly. This is because voter registration is a state-run procedure. You have to check with the state in which you are registering to vote for more information about requirements. However, this is all part of the duty that comes with being a good citizen and an active voter. Just make sure you know what is needed before you actually register to vote.

Related: How Can I Understand Politics? Tips for Teens

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