Voting is a right and a civic responsibility. And like millions of U.S. citizens, you will have the chance to exercise your right to vote during the Presidential Election of 2012.
Your vote on November 6, 2012 will help elect the next President of the United States, as well as other representatives at local, state and federal levels, including mayors, governors, congressional representatives and senators.
Below you will find five important facts about voting in the United States, including resources to help you register to vote and information on how to vote.
1) Voting Is Voluntary
Voting is the essence of democracy. Unlike other countries, voting in the United States is voluntary. Some people vote in person at the polls, while others vote by mail days or weeks before the actual election date. Regardless of how you do it, it’s important that all U.S. citizens who qualify participate in the democratic process of electing public officials.
2) States Establish Voting Rules
To vote in federal elections you need to be a U.S. citizen and be at least 18 years old, although some states allow 17-year-olds to vote. In fact, the states establish voting rules, including the requirements to register to vote, registration deadlines, and where to send your voting form. You may be able to register at a variety of places, including state and local voter registration offices, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and public assistance agencies. You might also be able to register by mail using the National Mail Voter Registration Form, but not all states accept it. Check with your state election office to learn how to register in your state.
3) Voter ID Laws Vary by State
Voter identification requirements also vary by state. Therefore, it’s important to figure out the documents you might need to show before going to your polling place on November 6, 2012. Some states require voters to show proof of identity before voting, such as driver’s licenses, passports or military papers. Your state election office can tell you what documents are required in your state.
4) You Can Vote If You’re Living Abroad
Federal law allows U.S. citizens to vote if they are living abroad. This includes members of the Armed Forces, federal employees, and other U.S. citizens who reside outside the United States. U.S citizens living abroad can request an absentee ballot by using the Federal Post Card Application (PDF). For more information about voting from abroad, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
5) There Are Several Ways to Participate in the Elections
Voting is not the only way to participate in the electoral process. If you would like to get more involved you can always volunteer at a polling place. Some states have specific requirements such as being a registered voter or meeting certain age requirements. You might have to be affiliated with a political party and reside in the state where you plan to volunteer. Check with your state election office to find out more.