Young people (18-29) make up 21% of the voting population in U.S. elections, yet only 50% of eligible voters in this age group voted in the 2016 general election. Use this page of resources to understand the mechanics of voting — and vote!
Register in person
Especially during election season, students will find plenty of opportunities to register to vote in person. Often, canvassers walk around campus with registration forms and can help students fill them out. Student government representatives may stop by classrooms to hand out forms, as well. Otherwise, students can register to vote at their state or local election office, the DMV, armed services recruitment centers or public assistance offices.
Online registration is available in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Vote.gov can help students determine if online registration is available in their state and, if so, direct them to the right form.
Students can pick up a registration form in person or download one from their state’s voting webpage, fill it out and mail it in with any other necessary documents.
If you live in another state or won't be present in your district on voting day, you need to request an absentee ballot so you can submit your vote by mail.
Find your local election office to ask questions or submit an absentee ballot
Voting in person
When election day rolls around, it’s time to go vote! Before that, though, students should check polling locations and times if they plan to vote in person. They should plan to set aside a few hours, as polling stations can be very busy. To smooth the process, students should make sure they have their voter registration card, any necessary ID and their practice ballot, where they can have all their votes written down for easy reference.
Voting via absentee ballot
Those who mail in their votes can prepare their ballots early to be sure they get them postmarked by the designated deadline. Students should be careful to follow all instructions and make sure their ballot is complete before mailing it in.
You can register to vote in either your home state or where you attend college, but you cannot be registered in both locations. If you decide to register in your home state, you need to plan sign up for an absentee ballot. Absentee ballot regulations vary based on where you live. Be sure to research your state’s required process. Regardless, you will have the right to vote in the state of your choosing, as long as you have a temporary or permanent residence there.
You will need to fill out a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA), print and sign the application, and then mail it to your local election office in your state of residency. Once your FPCA has been processed, you will receive a blank ballot (usually via email or fax) during election season to return to your local election office and cast your vote. This process may seem daunting, but there are a number of resources available to help guide you. Additionally, many voting offices allow you to check the status of your absentee voter registration online.
Your voting registration will not affect your financial aid or in-state tuition status. There is a slight chance that where you register to vote could affect your eligibility for certain state and private scholarships and grants, if you have received those scholarships and grants from organizations or agencies in your home state. Your school’s financial aid office should be able to provide additional information. In most cases, if your in-state or out-of-state residency does not change, your scholarships should not change either.
Not necessarily, though depending on your state, you may need to present an official document with your name and current address on it. If your address has changed, you may need to provide your polling location with documentation that verifies your change of address. In most states, this documentation can be a utility bill or paycheck with your current address on it.