If you’re not already registered to vote, now is definitely the time to do it. Yes, there’s a big presidential election coming up in November, but there are opportunities to vote at least once a year in your local elections, and you shouldn’t skip those either. But how, exactly, does one register to vote? Good news: It’s actually much faster and easier than most government-related forms (we’re looking at you, taxes). Here’s what you need to do:
First, check to see if you’re already registered
Even if you haven’t voted in a while, you may still be registered from voting in a previous election. There are a bunch of ways to check, but the absolute easiest is to Google “am I registered to vote.” As Thorin Klosowski previously explained on Lifehacker:
If you find yourself on the registry already and listed as an active voter, congratulations—you’re ready to vote! But if you haven’t voted in four or more years, your voting status may be listed as “inactive.” If you fall into this category, take a look at your state’s election office website to find out how to active your voting status (it differs from state-to-state).
Also, make sure you check with the U.S. Vote Foundation or your state or territory’s election office to find your state’s deadline for registering for an upcoming election.
How to register to vote
Once you’ve confirmed that you’re not already on the voter registry, it’s time to change that. Here’s what to do:
At this point, 39 states plus the District of Columbia allow online voter registration. If your state is one of them, the process should be relatively straightforward. You can either go directly to your state’s elections office website, or visit Vote.gov and enter your state to be redirected to the right site. Again, the registration process may vary from state-to-state, but as an example, people registering to vote in New York state need the following:
- a New York State DMV-issued driver license, permit or Non-Driver ID (it must be your most recently issued document, and you will need the ID Number and document number)
- the ZIP Code currently on record with the DMV
- the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number (SSN)
Registering by mail
If your state doesn’t offer online voter registration (or even if it does, but you want to do it the old fashioned way), you can register to vote by mail. Start by downloading the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can fill it out onscreen and print the completed form, or print the blank form and fill it out by hand. Just make sure you remember to sign the form before mailing it to the location listed for your state. Also, follow any state-specific instructions on the form (those start on page 3 and are listed alphabetically by state). This form is available in 15 languages.
Register in person
Under normal circumstances, you can also register to vote in person at your local board of elections office. In the midst of a global pandemic, you’re better off registering either online or via mail. But once (if?) things go back to some version of normal, you should be able to drop into your local board of elections office during business hours, fill out the voter registration form and submit it on the spot. Then you’ll be ready to do your civic duty.