When to register by

You must register by .

How to vote

You can vote early from to and on Election Day, Nov. 6.

You can vote in person on Election Day, Nov. 6.

You can vote by .

What to bring

When you vote is required.

Wait times in 2016

The typical voter in your state waited minutes in 2016.

Did we get something wrong about the current rules for voting in ? Let us know.

The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution, but how to exercise that right differs across the country.

“The process someone goes through to cast a ballot is different in every state,” said Trey Hood, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. State legislators have a number of legal levers — from early voting to voter ID restrictions — to change how voting works. As a result, some voters will have an easier time voting in elections on Nov. 6 than others.

When to register by

Many voters must register before Election Day

Same-day voter registration gives a small boost to voter turnout, according to Hood. It is practiced in only 17 states, while an almost equal number of states require voters to register almost a month before they’ll cast their vote. Same-day voter registration will be on the ballot this fall in Maryland.

Automatic voter registration

Must register earlier

Can register closer to Election Day

13 states have

an Oct. 9

deadline

AK

RI

OH

KY

PA

MI

FL

NM

GA

AZ

TN

TX

MS

IN

AR

MO

NY

OK

DE

VA

Oct. 16

LA

NJ

WV

OR

KS

SC

MA

NV

SD

AL

Oct. 26

NE

WA

MD

NC

17 states allow

Election Day

registration

NH

ME

WI

IL

DC

VT

UT

WY

CT

MT

MN

ND

HI

CO

CA

ID

IA

13 states have

an Oct. 9

deadline

17 states allow

Election Day

registration

Oct.16

Oct. 26

CT

CO

FL

DC

AZ

HI

WV

GA

IL

AR

IA

OR

KY

ME

SD

MD

IN

OK

AK

SC

ID

MO

DE

VA

NV

NE

WA

NJ

MI

NH

AL

MS

NC

NY

MA

RI

MN

LA

OH

VT

TN

MT

KS

PA

WI

TX

ND

NM

UT

CA

WY

13 states have

an Oct. 9

deadline

17 states allow

Election Day

registration

Oct. 16

Oct. 26

CO

CT

FL

DC

HI

AZ

GA

WV

IL

IA

AR

KY

OR

ME

ID

IN

RI

SD

MD

OK

SC

MI

MO

DE

VA

NV

NE

WA

NJ

MN

NH

AK

MS

NC

NY

AL

MA

OH

LA

MT

VT

TN

PA

KS

WI

ND

TX

NM

CA

UT

WY

Select counties in Florida and North Carolina have received an extension of the voter registration deadline due to hurricanes. Similarly, South Carolina has extended the deadline to Oct. 17 statewide. North Dakota does not require voter registration.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the state’s registration deadline of 20 days prior to an election. The court sided with the state’s argument that it was a reasonable deadline and necessary to prepare for elections over the American Civil Liberties Union’s claim that the deadline disenfranchised thousands.

Voter registration differs not just by when, but how. “Automatic voter registration is a bright spot in voting today,” said Myrna Pérez of the Brennan Center for Justice. Residents receiving a new driver’s license are automatically registered to vote, unless they decline. It has been implemented in 10 states and approved in five more. Automatic registration is on the ballot in Michigan and Nevada this fall. In Oregon, the first state to implement it, registration nearly quadrupled. In the next election — in the fall of 2016 — the state experienced the nation’s largest voter turnout increase.

Share of voters purged in 2016

Voter purge rates vary across states

Electoral rolls, the list of registered voters, are periodically purged by state officials. Purges keep rolls clean of voters who, for instance, have died or moved away. But according to a recent Brennan Center report, purge rates have dramatically increased in the past decade.

Fewer purged

More purged

0

NM

IA

CT

SC

SD

AL

WV

5%

CO

MI

CA

KY

OR

RI

KS

NJ

MN

DE

FL

MS

MD

NE

VT

AK

ID

WA

PA

LA

AR

MT

GA

10%

AZ

NV

TN

NC

OK

MA

VA

OH

WY

DC

15%

IN

0

5%

10%

15%

CO

KS

WV

OR

MS

AK

NC

LA

GA

IA

AL

KY

FL

NE

TN

MA

OH

NM

ID

WA

MT

WY

DC

IN

CT

SD

CA

DE

VT

NV

OK

VA

PA

AR

SC

MI

MN

MD

AZ

RI

NJ

0

5%

10%

15%

CO

KS

WV

OR

MS

AK

NC

LA

GA

IA

AL

KY

FL

NE

TN

MA

OH

NM

ID

WA

MT

WY

DC

IN

CT

SD

CA

DE

VT

NV

OK

VA

PA

AR

SC

MI

MN

MD

AZ

RI

NJ

Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Texas and Utah did not have sufficient data. North Dakota does not register voters.

“The [purges] are so much bigger, ” Pérez said. Spurred by largely unfounded fears of voter fraud, equipped with faulty data and sometimes in disregard of federal law, some states are purging “whack-a-doodle numbers” of voters, she says. During the 2016 Democratic primary in Brooklyn, thousands of voters showed up to polls and found their names had been removed from the rolls. There had recently been an illegal purge of over 100,000 voters.

Purge rates have not increased equally across the country. The Brennan Center found areas previously under federal oversight because of a history of discriminatory voting had higher levels of purges. In 2013 with the decision of Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act that required states and jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voter practices to gain federal approval before implementing changes to voting laws and practices. If these jurisdictions — states including South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Arizona and Alaska, and parts of North Carolina, Florida, California, South Dakota, Michigan and New York City — had purge rates on par with the rest of the country, more than 2 million voters would have stayed on electoral rolls for the 2016 election.

Areas previously covered under the Voting Rights Act have done more than purge voters. Last week, the federal Commission on Civil Rights issued a searing report on voting rights. It found that, after the Shelby decision, jurisdictions made changes to voting procedures that previously wouldn’t have been approved because they disproportionately limited minority voter access.

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When to vote

Most in-person early voting starts in October

“The overwhelming majority of studies show early voting increases turnout by 2 to 4 percent,” said Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College. Early voting provides greater convenience to voters, as well as access to the polls for communities challenged to make time on a Tuesday. Hood points out, however, that early voting convenience depends on its investment — a single early voting location for an entire county is not necessarily convenient to most voters.

More convenient

Less convenient

Sept.

21/22

NJ

VT

MN

SD

WY

Sept. 26

IL

Oct. 6

IA

ME

NE

CA

IN

OH

AZ

NM

MT

ID

WI

GA

Oct. 16

NC

TN

OR

WA

NV

MA

ND

TX

CO

DC

AK

AR

KS

LA

MD

HI

UT

WV

Oct. 26

FL

OK

13 states lack

early voting

MO

MS

VA

PA

SC

KY

AL

RI

CT

DE

MI

NH

NY

13 states lack

early voting

Sept. 26

Oct. 6

Oct. 16

Oct. 26

AL

CT

TX

Sept.

21/22

SC

RI

ND

VT

NM

MD

PA

NY

MA

CA

WV

NJ

MT

WI

OR

VA

NH

KS

NE

NV

UT

FL

OK

WY

IL

ID

OH

TN

MS

MI

DC

WA

ME

LA

AZ

SD

GA

NC

MO

DE

IA

CO

HI

MN

IN

KY

AR

AK

13 states lack

early voting

Sept. 26

Oct. 6

Oct. 16

Oct. 26

AL

TX

CT

Sept.

21/22

SC

ND

RI

NM

MD

VT

PA

NE

MA

NY

NJ

WI

MT

OR

WV

VA

NV

ME

KS

NH

WY

IL

FL

OK

ID

TN

UT

OH

MS

IA

DC

WA

MI

SD

NC

AZ

GA

LA

MO

CA

CO

DE

MN

IN

HI

KY

AR

AK

Some states may vary by municipality. Complete details in the “How do I vote” section. States that lack early voting allow voters to use absentee ballots if they met certain eligibility requirements.

Ohio and Nebraska both reduced their early voting periods in recent years. Attempts in Florida and North Carolina to do the same were struck down by courts. States often cite fraud to justify cutbacks to early voting. But Gronke says early voting fraud is nearly nonexistent and that cutbacks have been uniformly pushed by Republicans, who typically fare worse among early voters.

Carter Wrenn, a longtime Republican consultant and fixture in North Carolina politics, said in 2016, when the state’s voter restrictions were struck down in court, that voter fraud was an excuse — the aim was political, with African American voters caught in the middle. “Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, [North Carolina lawmakers] would have kept early voting right where it was,” he said.

What to bring

Photo ID is required in about one-third of states

Since 2010, over a dozen states have implemented stricter voter ID laws. In 2017 alone, 39 bills including more rigorous voter ID laws were introduced in 22 states, according to the Brennan Center. For some states, the passage of a voter ID law kicks off a prolonged dance with courts. After voter ID laws in Arkansas and North Dakota were struck down by courts, both states approved new laws in 2017 that, again, have ended up in court.

No ID

requirement

Non-photo ID

requirement

Photo ID

requirement

NE

NM

NC

ND

WV

NH

TX

GA

AZ

ME

MN

IL

AK

HI

IA

SD

IN

WI

PA

VT

OK

WY

CO

WA

AL

AR

ID

NJ

NY

MA

KY

KS

MS

MO

MT

LA

TN

MD

OR

OH

UT

MI

DC

DE

RI

FL

VA

CA

NV

CT

SC

No ID

requirement

Non-photo ID

requirement

Photo ID

requirement

NE

NM

NC

ND

WV

NH

TX

GA

AZ

AK

ME

MN

IL

HI

IA

SD

IN

WI

PA

VT

WY

OK

AR

CO

WA

AL

ID

MA

KY

NJ

NY

KS

MS

MO

MT

LA

OR

OH

TN

DC

MD

DE

UT

MI

RI

FL

VA

CA

NV

CT

SC

No ID

requirement

Non-photo ID

requirement

Photo ID

requirement

NE

NM

NC

ND

WV

NH

TX

AZ

GA

AK

ME

MN

IL

HI

IA

SD

IN

WI

PA

VT

WY

OK

AR

CO

WA

AL

ID

NY

MA

KY

MS

NJ

MO

KS

MT

LA

UT

TN

DC

MD

OR

OH

DE

MI

RI

FL

VA

CA

NV

CT

SC

Some states have caveats. Complete details in the “How do I vote” section.

Two recent studies examined the impact of voter ID laws in Texas and Michigan during the 2016 presidential election. While fewer than 1 percent of voters lacked photo ID, those that did were disproportionately people of color.

Median wait times in 2016

Voters in most states waited 5-10 minutes to vote

“Long lines at the polls can undermine the voting experience, even to the point of discouraging people from voting,” starts a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Wait times have generally improved over time, particularly for the worst states. In 2012, Florida had the longest average wait time of 45 minutes, followed by a 34-minute wait in the District.

Shorter wait

Longer wait

0 minutes

Vote-by-mail

states

OR

VT

WA

CO

IA

HI

MT

ME

DE

SD

5

FL

AZ

WI

CT

KS

NE

NH

WY

MA

NM

IL

NJ

CA

AK

OH

ND

MN

ID

KY

WV

MS

RI

MI

UT

NY

10

VA

TN

NV

PA

TX

LA

AL

NC

MO

15

AR

MD

GA

DC

OK

IN

SC

0 minutes

5

10

15

WY

WI

OH

NM

Vote-by-mail

states

NJ

MT

NH

WV

UT

ND

VA

OK

ME

SD

NE

MS

RI

WA

TX

NC

MD

CO

MN

TN

LA

AL

GA

IN

SC

OR

IA

DE

MA

KY

NY

PA

MO

AR

VT

IL

NV

DC

HI

KS

ID

MI

CA

FL

AK

CT

AZ

0 minutes

5

10

15

WY

WI

OH

NM

NJ

Vote-by-mail

states

MT

NH

WV

UT

ND

VA

OK

WA

ME

SD

NE

MS

RI

TX

NC

MD

TN

CO

MN

GA

IN

SC

OR

LA

AL

VT

PA

MO

AR

IA

DE

KY

NY

MA

IL

NV

DC

HI

KS

ID

MI

CA

FL

AK

CT

AZ

Wait times arise from multitude of factors, Hood said, from early voting and same-day registration policies to resources like polling places and poll workers. A recent proposal, that was ultimately scrapped, to close three-quarters of the polling places in a majority black Georgia county drew a strong backlash with civil rights groups warning of disenfranchisement.

Lines and wait times vary not just across, but within, states. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, large precincts tend to have longer lines, along with those that are more urban, dense and have a higher proportion of minority voters. In the 2016 election, minorities were six times as likely to wait over an hour to vote, according to a recent study.

Long lines can also be indicative of limited resources. “Many jurisdictions are struggling.” Pérez said. “The nuts and bolts [of running elections] is a perennial problem.” With paltry election budgets, many local election administrators have difficulty getting enough poll workers and up-to-date voting equipment. “We have the best democracy in the world but are not willing to pay for.”

From registration deadlines to IDs, states make a number of decisions that together create a voting system more convenient or burdensome for their residents. These decisions can go on to influence whether a ballot is cast at all. Ease of voting plays a role in voter turnout across states, but voting is shaped by a myriad of factors, including the voters — older and more educated people are more likely to vote — and candidates themselves.

Some states have turnout as low as 1 in 3 eligible voters

Average turnout for the voting eligible population in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.

Lower turnout

Higher turnout

30% turnout

DC

TX

no voting

representation in

Congress

MS

UT

NY

IN

WV

OK

TN

NV

AL

NJ

SC

NC

CA

AZ

LA

HI

AR

GA

40%

VA

IL

PA

NM

FL

NE

ID

DE

KY

OH

KS

MO

CT

MD

NH

ND

RI

WY

MI

WA

MA

VT

50%

IA

CO

MT

AK

SD

OR

WI

MN

ME

30% turnout

40%

50%

LA

SC

HI

PA

OH

NH

WV

ID

WY

TX

UT

TN

NJ

GA

NM

MO

ND

WA

MT

SD

WI

MS

OK

VA

NE

RI

VT

IA

MN

ME

NY

NV

NC

CA

IL

KY

MD

MA

CO

AK

OR

DC

IN

DE

MI

AL

AZ

FL

KS

CT

no voting

representation in

Congress

AR

30% turnout

40%

50%

LA

SC

HI

PA

OH

NH

WV

ID

WY

TN

NJ

GA

NM

MO

ND

WA

MT

SD

WI

TX

UT

MS

OK

VA

NE

RI

VT

IA

MN

ME

DC

NY

NV

NC

CA

IL

KY

MD

MA

CO

AK

OR

IN

DE

MI

AL

AZ

FL

KS

CT

no voting

representation in

Congress

AR

Brittany Renee Mayes and Brian Cleveland contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the voter registration deadline in Rhode Island was Oct. 9, early voting started on Oct. 18 in North Carolina and early voting ended Nov. 5 in Georgia. An earlier version misstated the early voting deadline in Maryland as Oct. 16; in-person registration also occurs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1.

About this story

Voter registration and early voting dates are sourced from the U.S. Vote Foundation, the National Conference of State Legislatures and Washington Post research. Automatic voter registration information from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Brennan Center for Justice. Purge rates were provided by the Brennan Center and based off the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Election Administration and Voting Survey. Voter ID requirements data is care of the National Conference of State Legislatures and Ballotpedia. Data on wait times for the 2016 election is from MIT Election and Data Science Lab’s Elections Performance Index. Midterm election voter turnout data is from the U.S. Elections Project.

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