Voting 101: What You Must Know Before Going to the Polls

It's that time of year again: November means election season. It's time to make your voice heard and have an impact on your community, so head to the polls. Not sure when or how to vote? Don't sweat it! It can be confusing but we've got it covered. This guide gives you the basic information you need, all you have to do is show up and decide who to cast your vote for.

Important Dates to Know

Get your calendar out and note down these important dates.

Registering to Vote

You may have registered to vote when you applied for a driver's license. Or maybe you did it later. Either way, you can check onlineif you're all set.

Still haven't registered? There may still be time. Some states (such as California and Idaho) allow for same-day voter registration, while others (like Alabama and Georgia) cut off new sign-ups much earlier. You'll have to check your state's voter registration laws and deadlines. If there's still time, make sure to head to your local elections office or, to make your life easier, register to vote online.

Early Voting

If you can't (or don't want to) vote on election day, you can still cast a ballot. There are several ways to vote early: in person at a designated place, through the mail using an official ballot, or via e-mail in some circumstances.

Most states allow you to vote earlywithout having to show a valid reason. Many will even open polling places a month before election day. Only four (Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, and New Hampshire) do not. Either way, the process to vote early in person is the same as election-day voting. And voting by mail works similarly, too: some states will mail ballots to every resident, while in others you'll have to request an absentee ballot online or in person. Just make sure you fill it out and drop it off with USPS or at a certified ballot drop-off box!

Election Day

Election Day 2022 is Tuesday, November 8. Polls tend to open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., local time, although in some states hours may differ. Either way, if you show up to your local polling station during the day while they're open, you're good to go.

Updated 2022 Voting Checklist

Now that you know the whens and wheres, it's time to go over what you need to take with you to vote in person.

Voting Registration Card

Generally speaking, if you're a registered voter, you don't need to take your voting card with you to the polls. But if you know where it is, taking it won't hurt and could even help you if there's a misunderstanding.

Driver's License

A total of 35 states now require voters to take some proof of identification with them to the polls:

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Michigan

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • New Hampshire

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • Rhode Island

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Utah

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • West Virginia

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming

Now, what document you'll be allowed to show to prove your identity varies from state to state. In a nutshell, poll workers will want to see some type of card with your name on it. In states with stricter laws, that ID card will also need to have a photo.

As you can imagine, valid driver's licenses are always accepted in every state. But other forms of ID may also be accepted:

  • Some expired driver's licenses

  • Birth certificate

  • Social Security card

  • Medicare card

  • College student photo ID card

  • Valid U.S. passport

  • Tribal enrollment card

  • U.S. military photo ID card

Ultimately, you'll have to check yourstate's photo ID voter laws.

Don't Put It Off, Just Do It

Now you have no excuse to skip this year's elections. Pack your voting-day essentials, grab your car keys, and head out to the polls. You can even make following through with your civic duty into a fun event if you go with friends! Remember, your voice and opinions matter.

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