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Every election is important, but this year's midterms feel more meaningful than most. And if early voting totals are any indication, voter turnout could be at an all-time high. Young people, too, have been energized to get to the polls, even those who may be too young.
You must be 18 years old to vote, and if you're going to turn 18 before election day, you can register to vote while you're still 17. But what if you're turning 18 on election day? Your ability to vote in this year's midterms may depend on where you live.
As a general rule, as long as you're turning 18 on or before election day, you can vote. But age is not the only requirement for being able to actually cast a ballot. You need to register in order to vote, and the rules on registration can vary significantly from state to state.
In North Dakota, for example, you do not have to register to vote, but you do need proper ID and proof of address at the polls. In addition, 13 states and D.C. have approved automatic voter registration measures, which make voter registration "opt-out" instead of "opt-in." Eligible citizens in those states (including California, Colorado, and Illinois) who interact with government agencies like the DMV are registered to vote or have their existing registration information updated, unless they affirmatively decline.
Outside of North Dakota and the automatic states, you'll have to take some affirmative measures to register to vote, and different states have different windows regarding when you can register if you're not 18 yet. For instance, in Alaska you must be at least 18 or within 90 days of your 18th birthday to register, while in Hawaii you can pre-register to vote at 16. Florida also allows 16-year-olds to register, New York requires registrants to be at least 18 by end of calendar year in which they register, and in Texas you must be at least 17 and 10 months old and 18 on Election Day to register.
As you can see, navigating voter registration as a young adult is not always easy. You can check USA.Gov for voter registration age requirements by state, along with helpful links to state voter registration resources.
Make sure you're registered to vote if you're turning 18 on or before election day. And make sure you vote.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.