The 2020 presidential primary season is upon us, with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary just a few weeks away. This primary season will be especially important for Democrats as voting will winnow down an incredibly crowded field.
There are a few important steps to take before heading to the polls, including making sure you are on the voter roll. If you’re not, register and make sure you know what you need before you vote. Laws and regulations for voting vary by state, with several states allowing voters to only vote for candidates within the party they are registered.
How To Check If You’re On The Voter Rolls
Every state in the country, except for North Dakota, requires voters to register before they are allowed to vote. Checking to see if you’re registered to vote is an important, and relatively easy, step before heading to the voting booths. Voter.org allows you to quickly check your voter registration status.
How to Register to Vote
Citizens in 38 states and the District of Columbia can register to vote online by visiting vote.gov. Residents of states that do not allow voter registration online can download the National Mail Voter Registration Form, fill it out on screen or by hand, print it and sign it before mailing it to the location listed for their state. U.S. territories each have their own guidelines and procedures for voter registration.
- Register Online: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin
- Register in Person/Mail: American Samoa, Arkansas, Guam, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, North Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Virgin Islands and Wyoming.
It’s important to note that each state has a different voter registration deadline. Some states, such as Iowa and Nevada, allow voters to register up until the day they’re voting. However, many states require voters to register before the primary and general elections. The deadline to register to vote for a few states’ primaries, including New Hampshire’s, has already passed.
The U.S. Vote Foundation has an easy tool to check out your state’s voter registration deadlines for primaries and general election, as well as other key election dates and deadlines. Check out your state’s voter registration deadline here.
Voter Registration Requirements and Regulations
In order to register to vote, individuals must be 18 years old on or before election day and be a U.S. citizen. More than 30 states place restrictions on individuals with former felony convictions, with 21 of those states granting individuals their voting rights after serving his/her incarceration, parole and/or probation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), individuals in 16 states and the District of Columbia lose one’s voting rights while incarcerated, but automatically receive his/her right to vote upon being released.
A number of states also have voter ID laws, which require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to cast their ballots. These laws tend to disproportionately affect people of color, including Native Americans.
- Strict Photo ID: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin
- Strict Non-Photo ID: Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio
- Photo ID Requested: Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota
- Non-Photo ID Requested: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington and West Virginia
- No ID Required: American Samoa, California, District of Columbia, Guam, Illinois, Maine, Mariana Islands, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Virgin Islands and Wyoming
Iowa Caucus & New Hampshire Primaries
On February 3, Iowa will officially kick off the primary season with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Democrats and Republicans will hold caucuses, which are not elections, in nearly 1,700 precincts across the state.
Iowa Caucuses begin promptly at 7 p.m. and voters are encouraged to arrive in their precincts early to avoid getting shut out. Iowans must be registered with the party for which they are caucusing, though voters can register or change their registration at their precinct caucus.
Voters at precinct caucuses (held in February) will elect delegates to represent their precinct at the county level. In March, delegates will attend county conventions to vote on resolutions that will be sent to the district level and elect delegates to move on to the District Conventions and later the State Conventions.
District conventions are typically held in April, during which resolutions approved of in the county level are voted on and adopted as part of the party platform. By May, each party holds state conventions, during which delegates for the national convention are elected.
On February 11, New Hampshire will hold its first-in-the-nation primary. New Hampshire does not allow citizens to register to vote online, but individuals can register prior to the election with their town or city clerk’s office or they can register to vote at their polling place on election day.