While the ability to actually vote online is still just a dream, most states in the U.S. do at least offer you the ability to register online. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of where (and how) to get it done.
How Online Voter Registration Works
Traditionally, registering to vote requires that you fill out a paper registration form that you get from election officials (or the internet). You then deliver your printed form in person or by mail to those officials, who process it and then send you your voter ID card. Online registration is much quicker, and you don’t even have to leave your home to do it.
Right now, 31 states and the District of Columbia offer online registration, many of which just implemented the system within the last year. A few other states have passed legislation to authorize online registration, but have not yet enacted it. In all states that do offer it, you’ll need to already have a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID card to register. The system works by validating the information in your online registration against the information you already provided when you obtained your ID.
In states where online registration is not available, you can often download a registration form and either mail or deliver it in-person to an election official, saving at least one step in the registration process. And, of course, all states still allow you to register in person.
How Online Absentee Registration Works
However, that’s not all–you can also register for absentee voting online in some states, allowing you to vote without leaving the house on election day.
All states allow absentee voting, but about half require that you have a valid reason for voting absentee. The other half do not require any excuse at all. While the eligibility criteria for absentee voting varies by state (and sometimes even by county), they do share some common excuses:
- Permanent disability or illness
- People over 65 years old
- Religious restrictions that prevent in-person voting
- Absence from your district due to employment, performing as an election official, or even vacation
- Students who reside outside their district
- People who are incarcerated, but not yet convicted or otherwise retain their voting privileges
There are also a few other factors to take into account when considering absentee voting:
- Early voting: Some states allow you to cast your vote early if you won’t be available on election day. For states that allow early voting, it is sometimes built into the absentee voting system and sometimes allowed in person at various locations. The times for early voting vary by state.
- Permanent absentee voting: A handful of states (about 9 right now) allow you to sign up for permanent absentee voting. You won’t have to register for it each year, and instead are mailed an absentee form before each election. Most states that allow permanent absentee voting require that you fill out a paper form, though a few offer it as an option during online registration.
- All mail voting: Three states (Oregon, Washington, and Colorado) use an all-mail voting system. Ballots are automatically mailed to all registered voters and may be filled and returned by mail. No in-person voting is required. All three of these states allow you to register online.
The method for absentee registration also varies by state. Some states allow you to select absentee voting as part of the online registration process. Others require that you fill out and submit a paper form.
Online Registration and Absentee Voting by State
The table below lists states that have online voting and where to register. It also shows whether each state requires an excuse for absentee voting or not and whether it allows permanent absentee status, along with where to find out more information about those programs. States listed as All Mail states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) feature permanent absentee voting by default, since all voting is conducted via mail anyway.
Now, you have no excuse for not registering. No more finding the right location, figuring out how to get there when they’re open, and standing in line. Just click and sign up. So get out there and vote!
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