Pre-Registration FAQs: Get Ready to Exercise Your Right to Vote!

One of the least highlighted ways of how young people can get involved in democracy is the process of pre-registering to vote. Pre-registration is an important tool that allows young people to be incredibly prepared to vote when they turn 18 years old. This article aims to provide simple answers to the question of what is pre-registration, frequently asked questions about pre-registration, empowering readers of all ages to understand and navigate this important step in the voting process.

1. What is pre-registration?

Pre-registration is a system that allows young people, between the ages of 16 and 17 depending on the state, to register to vote in advance of turning 18. By submitting their information beforehand, young voters can conveniently transition to becoming registered voters as soon as they turn 18. It essentially makes the transition from being a non-eligible voter to a registered, eligible voter easier and more seamless!

2. Who is eligible for pre-registration?

The specific eligibility criteria for pre-registration varies depending on your state. In some states, individuals who are at least 16 years old are eligible to pre-register to vote. In other states, pre-registration is allowed if you’ll be 18 by the next election. In some other states, you have to be 17 years old or 17 years and 6 months before you can register to vote. Make sure to confirm the requirements for your state

3. Why should I pre-register?

Pre-registration offers several advantages. First and foremost, it helps encourage young voters to become active participants in the democratic process from an early age. It gives young people the chance to get involved in the process of voting, a process that has been proven to be one that is habitual, before they even leave high school. When you pre-register to vote, it allows you to ask questions and demystify the process of voting, which results in you feeling comfortable and confident in your rights when the time to come and vote after you have turned 18 presents itself. Pre-registering also streamlines the voting process, making it easier for individuals to vote as soon as they become eligible, without the need for additional paperwork or registration steps. As a young person, it often feels like elections are not operated in a way that is easy to understand, which makes democratic participation feel out of reach and unattainable. Pre-registration is an instrument that helps combat that feeling, inviting more young people into the process of being an active voter.

4. How do I pre-register?

The process of pre-registration typically involves filling out a normal voter registration form, providing basic personal information such as name, address, and date of birth, as well as some form of identification. It may also be as simple as opting in to registration at the DMV when you get your driver’s license. The exact information, and whether you can pre-register to vote online, varies from state-to- state, but it is usually a pretty uniform process. This information is securely stored by your state until you turn 18. You can pre-register to vote with your local election office and find more information about your state’s pre-registration requirements on your Secretary of State’s website. 

5. Is pre-registration the same as voting?

No, pre-registration is not the same as voting. Having pre-registered to vote does not make you eligible by default, and you still need t0 confirm your registration is active and received, since sometimes mistakes happen and forms aren’t processed. You can always contact your local elections office or go on your state’s Secretary of State website to confirm your voter registration status.

6. Can I pre-register if I move to a different state?

Whenever you move, you have to update your voter registration. If you pre-register in one state and then move to another state, you’ll need to register to vote again when allowed in that state. The rules regarding pre-registration may differ between states. It is important to check the requirements of the specific state you reside in, as some states may allow pre-registration for individuals who plan to move to their jurisdiction for college, while others may not. Some states might also require that you’ve resided for a specific amount of time before pre-registering to vote.

7. What happens if I pre-register but don't turn 18 before the next election?

If you pre-register but do not reach the voting age before the next election, your pre-registration information may be held until you are eligible to vote. If the next election is a primary election, and you turn 18 before the general election, depending on your state you may be eligible to vote in the primary


Pre-registration is an excellent opportunity for young people to engage with democracy from the first moments they are able to! By pre-registering, individuals can ensure a smooth transition to becoming fully registered voters once they turn 18, and get a head start on learning more about the complex electoral system that we live in. 

The HeadCount team is well aware that democracy is a difficult thing to navigate! Tiny laws about things such as absentee voting or voter IDs can be changed at a moment’s notice. We believe that the important thing to keep in mind is not the overwhelming aspects of voting and democracy (though there are many!) - Rather that it is possible to learn something new about how elections and government work in our country in a way that is understandable and accessible!


Want to keep learning about different aspects of our ever-changing democracy? Check out our full series of blog posts here. We will be posting regularly throughout the year!

Need more specific info about voting in your state?  There’s a good chance that we have what you’re looking for! A ton can be found on our state resource hub, where you can easily find upcoming election dates and deadlines, instructions on how to vote early and by mail, and so much more! Other helpful resources throughout HeadCount’s  website to use are our polling place locator, our sample ballot lookup tool and our voting FAQs

Looking to register voters now that you feel knowledgeable and excited about the democratic process? Take a look at our upcoming events in your community and sign up to volunteer with us at a show or other event! 

Regardless of what resources and pieces of HeadCount’s community you use and are a part of, we hope you feel confident in knowing that every time you learn more about elections, democracy and the ins and outs of how the whole process works, you are strengthening not only your voice, but the voice of your entire community!