Election Basics

There Are Three Ways to Vote

Early Voting

In some states, there is an in-person early voting option prior to Election Day, where registered voters may cast a ballot in a designated period prior to Election Day. Each state or jurisdiction has varying rules and times, please check the details in your state.

Absentee Voting (By Mail)

Absentee ballots are available to voters in all states, with different restrictions depending on the state. The form that absentee voting takes varies—generally, absentee voting consists of a ballot mailed to your residence, allowing you to cast a vote prior to—or by—Election Day by mail. Many states allow you to vote absentee without an excuse or specific reason, while other states will require an excuse for you to vote absentee.

Some states, like California, offer permanent absentee voting, where you will receive a ballot prior to every election. Most states require you to request an absentee ballot by a predetermined deadline before each election. States like Oregon and Washington vote entirely by mail, where every registered voter receives a ballot by mail without requesting or applying for it. See how voting by mail or absentee works in your state.

Election Day Voting

You may vote in person on Election Day, but you may be required to vote in designated locations and within the hours the polling places are open. Some states require a valid photo ID before you cast your ballot, or else you will cast a provisional ballot. Check your state’s voter ID requirements here. As Election Day draws closer, you may find your polling location here.

Voter Registration rules

  • You have to be a U.S. citizen.
  • You need to be at least 18 years old on Election Day.
  • You must be a resident of the state you are registering in.

You may need to re-register if your address, party affiliation, or name has changed since you last registered.

Many states require you to register to vote in advance of the election.

Every State has Different Rules for its Elections

Make sure you are up-to-date with your voting rights and election information.

Voting From Abroad

To vote from abroad, you must register with local election officials in your state of voting residence AND request an absentee ballot. You can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to do both. Submit a new FPCA early each year, every time you move, and whenever you change your address, email, or name. See more information here.

Frequently Asked Questions

To register to vote, you must be a U.S. Citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, and you must be a resident of the state you are registering in.
Yes. Most states require you to register to vote about a month before Election Day, although it varies by state. Some states also allow you to register on Election Day. Please check the specifics in your state and register before the deadline.
You may register either at your home or in the jurisdiction your school is in. It is your right to be able to register and vote in the state your school is located, you just may need to provide verification that you are enrolled on that campus.
If you moved within the same city or town, notify your local election office of your updated address in writing. However, you must register to vote again if:
  • You move to a new city or town, or
  • You change your name, or
  • You change your political party affiliation.
Many states have online voter portals to check or verify your voter registration (check your state here), or you may contact your local election officials to check your voter registration.
Can’t make it to the polls on election day? Vote absentee or take advantage of early voting! All states are required to have absentee ballot (vote by mail) programs to allow citizens with disabilities and overseas military personnel to vote. States also allow early mail-in or in-person absentee voting for other reasons such as work obligations or being out of town for vacation or school. Find the details of early or absentee voting in your state.
Check to see if organizations in your state have voter guides, or for the general election, you may visit Vote411.org to find information on what and who is on your ballot.
Refer to www.usa.gov. This is a one-stop site about government services to help Americans across the country and world find the information they need.
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans compiles a 2020 Policy Platform highlighting key areas that include, but aren’t limited to, our five policy committees: immigration, civil rights, healthcare, education, and housing/ economic justice. This policy platform follows a tradition NCAPA began in 2004 to present a comprehensive set of policy recommendations related to the AA and NHPI community.  You may view the Platform here.
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires local election officials to provide bilingual voter registration applications, ballots, and language assistance in certain jurisdictions where more than 10,000, and/or 5%, of the population is of a language minority group. See the details of Section 203 here, and if your jurisdiction is covered. If you need help voting, language assistance is available through our voter hotline (1-888-API-VOTE) in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.
Call our toll-free election hotline at 1-888-API-VOTE (1-888-274-8683) any time if you have any questions or concerns.

Have questions or need help voting?

Call 1-888-API-VOTE
(1-888-274-8683).

Bilingual assistance is available in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi, and Bengali. Learn more.