Frequently Asked Questions

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>> Questions about your Voter Card

>> General questions about registering to vote and voting

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>> Voting Dictionary


What is a voter card?
After you register to vote, most states send out a "voter card" to let you know your registration has gone through. The voter card helps you to confirm you're registered to vote and that your information is correct. Most also contain information about where you will go to vote on Election Day.

What does a voter card look like?
Voter cards vary from state to state but generally they're small cards similar to a postcard.

How long does it take to get my voter card in the mail?
It usually takes 6-8 weeks for the state to send out your voter card. If 8 weeks have passed and you haven't received your card, you probably are not registered and should call your state to make sure your registration went through properly. If you register to vote with fewer than 8 weeks to the election, you may not receive your card in time. Call your state to confirm your registration.

I don't know if I ever received a voter card (or I lost mine). What should I do?
Call your state to make sure you correctly filled out your voter registration form and they have you listed as a registered voter. If you're registering right before the voter registration deadline, chances are you won't receive the card in time for the election. You do not need this card to vote but you do need to know if you're registered and where your voting location is. Call your state with any questions.

I lost my voter card. How can I get another one?
You should be able to call your state and request a new voter card. Not all states send out voter cards.

Do I need my voter card in order to vote?
No. Voter cards let you know that you have successfully registered to vote. They contain information for where you will vote on Election Day and a phone number for your state if you have any questions. Voter Cards are NOT required in order to vote.

What if my info on the card is wrong?
The card should have information on how to change any incorrect information (such as the wrong apartment number or that your name is misspelled). If for some reason there are no instructions, call your state.

Why should I hold onto my voter card?
A voter card lets you verify that your voter registration information is correct, such as your name, address, and birth date. It also has the address for your polling place, which is where you will vote on Election Day.

Does a voter card serve as a form of identification for voting?
Most states do not accept a voter card as a form of ID. If you are a first time voter who mailed in your registration form, you should contact your state to find out what, if any, identification you will need at the polls.

I moved and registered to vote at my new address but I still have my old voter card and haven't received a new one. Does it matter?
Your old voter registration card is invalid. The information on the card, such as polling place address, is inapplicable to your new address. Call your state to make sure you're registered at your new address and request a new card.

I registered but never received my voter card. When I called my state they said I am not registered. What happened?
Sometimes mistakes are made by state agencies. States have a confusing web of policies at the state and local level regarding voter registration forms and occasionally they will wrongly deny an application. More often the person trying to register to vote fills out the form incorrectly, sends it to the wrong address, forgets to sign it, or sends it in after the deadline. Don't let this happen to you.

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Do I need to be 18 in order to register to vote?
You do not have to be 18 in order to register but most states require that you be 18 by the next election in order to vote. Some states do have a minimum age requirement to register to vote (for example you may have to be 17 1/2 years of age). Contact your state for more information.

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen in order to register to vote?
Yes. You must be a naturally born or fully naturalized U.S. citizen in order to register to vote.

I am a student. Can I register to vote at my school address?
YES. You have the right to register to vote at your school address, this includes a dorm room. Any student living in a dorm is entitled to the same rights as any other student. To imply otherwise is illegal. If you receive mail in a Post Office box you can sign an affidavit (or, in some cases, get a letter from your college's Residential Life office) asserting that you live at your dorm address. For more info, check out our page on student rights.

I am in the armed forces. How do I register to vote?
You should contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Their website is http://www.fvap.gov. They specialize in getting people in the armed forces and people living abroad registered to vote. The rules for people in the armed forces or abroad are different than people living in the United States. The FVAP can also be reached by phone at (800) 438-VOTE. For more information, check out our page on soldier rights.

I live abroad. How do I register to vote?
You should contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Their website is http://www.fvap.gov. They specialize in getting people in the armed forces and people living abroad registered to vote. The rules for people in the armed forces or abroad are different than people living in the United States. The FVAP can also be reached by phone at (800) 438-VOTE.

Can I put a P.O. Box address or a school mailbox address as my permanent address?
No. Your form will not be processed if you put a P.O. Box or school mailbox address as your permanent address. For districting purposes you must put a physical address. There is a section of the form to put your mailing address, in addition to your physical address.

What is my ID number?
ID number requirements vary from state to state, but most states require a drivers license or state ID number (from the state you're registering in), part of or your full social security number. Contact your state for more information.

How can I check to see if I am registered to vote?
Contact your state and ask them how to check if you're registered to vote. They may be able to tell you or they may give you the phone number to a local elections office that has the local voter list.

I registered to vote a long time ago. Is it still valid?
Some state remove "inactive" voters from the polls after a certain amount of time (for example, if you don't vote in 4 or more general elections, they may remove you from the voter file). If you can't remember the last time you voted, chances are you'll need to re-register.

How do I change my voter registration address if I moved?
On every voter registration form there is a place to fill in your previous registration information. You will fill out the form as if it were your first time doing so, and where it asks you to put in your old information, you would put in your previous address (or as much of it as you remember).

I changed my legal name. How do I change my name on my voter registration?
On every voter registration form there is a place to fill in your previous registration information. You will fill out the form as if it were your first time doing so, and where it asks you to put in your old information, you would put in your previous name, (for example, your maiden name).

When is the last day to register to vote?
Voter registration postmark deadlines vary from 30 days before the election to just a couple of days before the election. Look on our website for the voter registration deadlines for your state.

I was previously convicted of a felony. Can I register to vote?
If you were convicted of a felony your voting rights vary from state to state. See our page on felon rights to learn what you can do.

I know someone who's mentally impaired/disabled. Can she vote?
In most states, if a person has been declared "non compos mentis," or "mentally incompetent" by a court of law, that person is ineligible to vote. For more information on how your state defines "mental incompetence," contact your state.

I just moved to a new state yesterday. Can I register to vote in that state right now?
Residency rules vary. In some states, you may be eligible to register to vote in your new state immediately upon moving. In others, you may need to wait a certain number of days or be living in the state for a certain amount of days before the next election before you register. A state cannot require you to live there for more than 30 days in order to register. Check your individual states instructions for the specific rules for your state.

Do I need to show identification to vote?
If you registered to vote for the first time at your current address and mailed in your voter registration form, you will most likely need to show ID and/or proof of residency at the polls on Election Day. Click here to find out what forms of ID your state requires and/or accepts.

Where do I vote on Election Day?
CLICK HERE to find out where you vote on Election Day. Polling places are usually within walking distance to your house (unless you are in a very rural area). A polling place can be in a business, a person's house, a school, or a community center to name a few.

I won't be around on Election Day. How can I get an absentee ballot?
Check out our page on absentee voting. You must be registered to vote in order to request an absentee ballot. The requirements for requesting an absentee ballot vary from state to state. Click here to find the link to your state's absentee information.

What if I go to the polls and they tell me I am not registered to vote?
First, make sure you are at the right polling place. If you are at the wrong polling place they would not have your name on file. If you are at the correct location and are not on file you can still cast a ballot. Ask the poll worker for a provisional ballot. After the polls close on Election Day the state will check on the status of your voter registration and if there was a mistake made. The state must notify you as to whether your ballot was counted. If you have a problem voting and think your rights have been denied call (866) OUR-VOTE. There will be lawyers there to help.

On Election Day, if I think my rights have been violated, what should I do?
Call (866) OUR-VOTE if you feel your rights have been violated. There will be lawyers on hand to answer Election Day questions and concerns about voting procedures.

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Where can I learn who’s running for office, research issues, and check to see my state’s voting laws?
Project Vote Smart www.votesmart.org
Learn more about the election process, who is running for office in your community, and what issues matter this cycle.
USA.gov www.usa.gov
Contact your elected officials, find voter registration information, get more involved in your community’s election process.
More Questions?
Call the Project Vote Smart Voter's Research Hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762)

Is there a cheatsheet that explains how the primaries and general elections work?
Read through our section on How Elections Work. If you still have questions, read through our glossary. Feel free to contact us, if you think there’s anything we should add!

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