Voting in Your State of Residence

Just because you’re voting in your state of residence doesn’t mean you can automatically expect to walk into your local polling place, grab a ballot, flip a few levers, and call it a day.

For starters, most states don’t even allow walk-in registration. Not only that, but registration deadlines vary from state to state. For example, voters in Alaska must be registered by October 9th regardless of whether they’re doing so online, via mail or in person, while voters in Vermont have nearly a full month longer to register. Furthermore, how you plan to register is also a factor with some state deadlines for registration methods varying by as much as a month.

Looking for information on your specific state? Lucky for you, the New York Times has assembled a comprehensive guide of state-by-state deadlines, which also includes handy information about supporting materials you’ll need to register. (Usually, a driver’s license or other state-issued form of identification will suffice.)

Additionally, the U.S. government’s website Vote.gov is a terrific starting point for determining how to register in your state, while Vote.org is also a useful portal for streamlining the registration process.

Not sure if you’re registered? Check here to find out.

Voting Outside Your State of Residence?

If you’re planning on being out of your state of residence on voting day, you can utilize Absentee Voting (also known as “mail-in voting” and “by-mail voting”) to cast your ballot.

Depending on the requirements of your state, you can register to receive an absentee ballot to fill out and return. Some even allow early voting and in-person absentee voting. While 21 states require that voters provide an excuse before being permitted to vote by absentee ballot, others — including Washington, D.C. — offer no-excuse absentee voting. (You can check out which category your state falls into here.)

In addition to students who are out of state, other valid excuses for being absent from polling sites on Election Day may include illness, physical disability, religious constraints, public service or membership in the military, age, and even vacation.

Again, the rules regarding absentee voting and early voting depend on the state. Taking time to educate yourself about Absentee Voting and Voting by Mail and Early Voting and In-Person Absentee Voting can help ensure your ability to make good on your constitutional right.

Voting from Overseas?

Overseas U.S. citizens and members of the military stationed overseas are also eligible to vote absentee. However, unlike stateside voters who being the process with their state or territorial election offices, overseas votes must use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to both request to vote and to receive their absentee ballot electronically. The best part? All it takes is filling out a single form to get started.

And while acting early can help you avoid last minute panic, if you do find yourself in the position of missing your state’s deadline for returning your absentee ballot, the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) may also be used as a backup. (However, you must have at least submitted an FPCA or registered to absentee vote by an alternate method in order to have your FWAB counted.)

Wondering what to use as your voting residence if you’re living outside the country? It’s surprisingly straightforward:  Whether or not you still own property in the state and even if you have no plans to return, your voting residence remains the U.S. address where you last resided prior to leaving. (Military members, meanwhile, should use the state listed on their Leave and Earnings Statement — even if it’s not their home of record.)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, you’re not alone. The Federal Voting Assistance Program website offers step-by-step guidance for overseas citizens, as well as a repository of links comprising all voting information in one central place.