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How to Register to Vote For the First Time

Newbie's Guide to Registering to Vote

If you've never voted and want to do so for the coming presidential election this November, then the first step you need to take is to register to vote. First of all, you need to know if you qualify. You can generally vote if:

  • You are of a certain age. You can usually preregister to vote when you turn 16 but can only vote if you are 18 by election day.
  • You are a US citizen.
  • You have not been convicted of a felony. This may differ by city and state, so check with your local office. For example, some states let convicted felons vote if they have finished serving their sentence, while some do not.
  • You have not been judged incompetent to register to vote.

Be sure to check with your state election office to see what the specific qualifications are for your state, as the requirements can vary slightly. Once you know you qualify to vote, here are the different ways you can register:

  • By mail: Contact your state election office to request a voter registration card.
  • Online: Check your state election office's website to see if they offer an online option to register. Many states provide you with that option.
  • In person: You can pick up your voter registration in certain locations. It differs from state to state, but you can often pick it up at the DMV, public libraries, US Postal Service stations, and local offices.

It's best to register as soon as you can, because there is a deadline for voter registration. The deadlines vary in different states, so check with your state election office's website, or call them to see what the due date is. For example, California voter registration for the upcoming presidential election must be postmarked no later than Oct. 22, 2012, and in New York, mailed applications must be postmarked no later than Oct. 12, 2012.

Have you registered to vote yet?

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