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How to register to vote

A+student+fills+out+registration+papers+during+Political+Awareness+Day+at+Foothill+College.
A student fills out registration papers during Political Awareness Day at Foothill College.

A student fills out registration papers during Political Awareness Day at Foothill College.

Kathy Honcharuk

Kathy Honcharuk

A student fills out registration papers during Political Awareness Day at Foothill College.

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Though politics was a defining theme of 2016, the voter turnout of the election was staggeringly low. While there are a variety of culprits for this discrepancy between political involvement and actual turnout, one of the major reasons was that eligible voters — especially younger ones — simply did not register to vote. While the 2016 election is behind us, the election cycle for this year’s midterm elections is already underway — and this election shows signs of being immensely pivotal in influencing the long-term political direction of this country.

Oct. 22 is the deadline for voter registration in California. While residents can still conditionally register and cast a provisional ballot at a County Elections Office the day of the election, registering online, in person, or by mail today is the best way to ensure your ballot is counted. Registering to vote is the first step in the process of helping steer the upcoming tipping point, and doing so is surprisingly easy.

The first step in the process is to determine whether or not you are eligible. In order to register to vote, you must be 18 years old or older, a U.S. citizen, and must not currently be in prison or on parole with a felony conviction — with certain exceptions. If you are 16 or older but are not yet 18, there is the option to “pre-register” to vote, which will automatically register you to vote as soon as you turn 18.

Once you have determined that you are eligible, the fastest way to apply to register to vote is to head to registertovote.ca.gov. You will need either your California driver’s license, state ID number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number to verify your identity. Fill out the appropriate form — depending on whether you registering or pre-registering — and submit. You will receive an email within a few days informing you whether or not your application to register to vote was accepted.

If you would rather fill out a paper form, you can pick one up at your local DMV or post office. The paper application will be identical to the online one, and you will still need one of the same types of identification.

On your application, you will have the opportunity to register as a member of the political party of your choice. This can be changed at any time, furthermore, it does not obligate you to vote for any candidate in particular. This is required in order to vote in state primary elections, however, you will only be able to vote in the primary of the party that you have selected.

Once you are registered, you will not need to re-register unless your personal information — address, name, gender, partisan preference, or more — has changed. Otherwise, you will be able to vote in the next election — provided your application was approved 15 or more days in advance of it. It is still advisable, however, to check your registration before every election in the case of registration purges or error. 

Now go register, go vote, and let your political opinions make a difference!

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