Voting FAQ

Learn about researching candidates, voting accessibility, voting requirements, when & how to vote, overseas & student voting, voting early, and what to bring with you on election day!

Address Changes, Overseas and Student Voting

Residency rules vary by state. In some states you can register right away. Others require that you’ve lived there for at least 30 days. To learn your state’s guidelines, you are best calling your state election office. You can find the number here.

YES. In this case you must register at the last address you had before you left the USA, or at the address to which you will return. If the latter, you may not simply pick the place you would like to return to in an ideal world; there must be some indication of a present intent to return and live there (e.g. vehicle registration, driver’s license, property ownership, family, etc). If you have never had a permanent address in the United States but are a citizen you are allowed to register at an address you plan on moving to or an address where you currently have family living. The Overseas Vote Foundation provides excellent information and resources on all matters related to registering and voting from abroad.

You should never use a driver’s license number that is not from the state where you intend to register to vote. If your driver’s license is out-of-state, then give the last 4 digits of your SSN (except in HI, KY, NM, SC, TN, and VA, where you need to provide your full SSN).

To be on the safe side, we suggest checking with your state election office before heading to the polls and checking out the exact requirements. Links to your state election office can be found at the HeadCount Voter Info Hub.

YES, in most cases. On a state form, look for the appropriate check box and/or fill out the section which asks for your previously registered voting address. On the federal, multi-state form, fill out the portion on the bottom half relating to your address change.

The best thing to do is to register now wherever you have a permanent mailing address. Vote in that district and bring some proof of identification and/or residency or apply for an absentee ballot if you will be away during the election.

Basic Requirements

YES. While all states require a driver’s license identification number or non-drivers ID number on the voter registration form, if you don’t have a driver’s license and have not been issued a non-driver state ID card, states will accept the last four digits of your social security number (except in HI, KY, NM, SC, TN, and VA where you should give your full SSN).

NO. You should wait to register to vote until you have this information.

In most states you need (1) an address from which you plan to vote, and (2) an ID number – either a current and valid driver’s license or your social security number, if you don’t have the former.

Arizona and Kansas also require proof of citizenship. In Arizona, this means you need to provide an Arizona driver’s license or state ID number (issued after October 1, 1996), or documentary proof such as a birth or naturalization certificate along with the registration application.

In Kansas, if you are registering to vote for the first time you need to provide documentary proof of citizenship. Your driver’s license does not suffice as proof of citizenship; there you must provide your passport, birth certificate or naturalization certificate.

In Wisconsin, all voters need to provide a proof of residency when you register to vote. Proof of residency can include a valid in-state driver’s license with your current address or recent official mail with your name and address. South Carolina and Vermont also require proof of residency documentation if you register to vote by mail.

In most states, if you have neither a current driver’s license or state-issued ID, and have never been issued a social security number, you can still register by indicating on the registration form that you have neither identification number. Some may require an affidavit or other documentation.

Election Day

Call the voting rights hotline at 866 OUR-VOTE. They have lawyers ready to help you. You can also email HeadCount at [email protected] and we’ll try to help you out.

A provisional ballot is used when a voter’s eligibility cannot be confirmed at the polls. Often this occurs due to out-of-precinct voting, if the voter has not updated their address on their voter registration or more often if the voter cannot provide sufficient identification. The laws governing the use of provisional ballots vary by state. Most of the time these ballots will not be counted until the voter can be verified, a process that happens after election day and usually only affects an extremely close or tied election.

First, make sure you are at the correct polling place. Click here to call your state election office and verify your registration. You can also use our online Polling Place Finder. If you can not find your polling place or verify that you are in fact registered, the best thing to do is fill out a provisional ballot, and then make sure you are properly registered for the next election.

Find your polling place by visiting the website of your state election office or calling your state election office or visiting the HeadCount Polling Place Finder. Note that updated information is often not available until shortly before Election Day. You may receive a voter information card/certificate in the mail that will direct you to your polling place. Polling places can be moved, however, so it is important to check where to vote before Election Day.

In most states, a voter card is NOT considered acceptable ID. For a full list of what is acceptable in your state, visit the HeadCount Voter ID page.

Top 10 Questions

Laws vary from state to state. In some, your rights are restored automatically once your sentence or parole period ends. In others you must petition to have your rights restored. You should not register to vote if you are not aware of the status of your civil rights. For a comprehensive look at state-by-state felon restrictions, we suggest visiting ProCon’s Felon Voter Information website.

YES. In this case you must register at the last address you had before you left the USA, or at the address to which you will return. If the latter, you may not simply pick the place you would like to return to in an ideal world; there must be some indication of a present intent to return and live there (e.g. vehicle registration, driver’s license, property ownership, family, etc). If you have never had a permanent address in the United States but are a citizen you are allowed to register at an address you plan on moving to or an address where you currently have family living. The Overseas Vote Foundation provides excellent information and resources on all matters related to registering and voting from abroad.

It can take several weeks. Most states send out voter registration cards within 5 to 7 weeks after receiving the registration. If you do not receive a registration card in the mail, contact your state election office to confirm you are registered. In any event, you should verify your registration a week prior to the voter registration deadline in your state in case you need to fill out a new registration form or correct your form.

You can verify your voter registration status online or by phone in most states. Links and phone numbers can be found at HeadCount Verify My Registration page.

NO. However, some states require that you be enrolled with a party to vote in that party’s primary election. If you do not choose a party, enter “No party” on your voter registration form. To find out more information regarding your state’s political parties, visit the HeadCount Voter Info Hub or your state election website.

Voting Early or Absentee

You can generally vote by absentee ballot if you will be away from home on Election Day. Many states also offer in-person early voting in the days or weeks leading up to the election. Visit the HeadCount Early and Absentee Voting page to request an absentee ballot or get information on how to vote early.

Go here to request an absentee ballot.

Many states allow no-excuse absentee voting by mail (which you can complete before Election Day). More than half of U.S. states offer in-person early voting as well. Visit the Headcount Early and Absentee Voting page to get more information or request an absentee ballot.

When and How to Register to Vote

Laws vary by state, but in some states anyone who assists in filling out voter registration forms must also sign and date the form and provide contact info. Because the laws vary, we suggest people fill out their own form.

You should complete all required sections of the voter registration form to the best of your ability. The problem with leaving portions of the form blank is that there are different rules in different states regarding what is a complete form and how to treat incomplete forms. You also have to attest to the truthfulness and accuracy of the information you’ve provided. If you have an idea but are unsure, write “to the best of my knowledge” next to a section you’re not 100% sure of.

It depends. Some states hold open primaries that are open to all registered voters, others hold closed primaries that require you are pre-registered with the party some time before the general voter registration deadline, and still others will allow unaffiliated voters to select a party on election or caucus day. The best way to ensure your participation is to visit the HeadCount Voter Info Hub to view your state’s specific requirements.

In some states, YES. An increasing number of states allow you to register online if you have a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID card issued by the state. In all other states, if the form is available online, you will still need to print it out and send it in to the state election office or your county election office. You can begin this process on the HeadCount website right now.

If you don’t have a friend who can print it out for you, many libraries have printers available. Some also have pre-printed voter registration forms. You can also register at any DMV or election office. The number for your state election office is here – they can tell you where to find a local office.