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Voting is the official choice that you make in an election by casting a ballot.[1] By counting votes, election officials can gauge the popularity of various options or the winner of an election, whether voters are voting for candidates for a specific office or for or against a specific ballot measure.

Reasons for voting

How and why individuals vote in elections has been the focus of much study in political science and economics. Though the act of voting in most countries is voluntary, in some countries, such as Australia, Belgium and Brazil have compulsory voting systems. Compulsory voting was common in totalitarian societies like the U.S.S.R.[2]

In a democracy, voting commonly implies one of three things:[2]

  • an election, that is, a way for an electorate to select among candidates for office;
  • the process by which citizens approve or disapprove initiatives or referendum; or
  • the process of representative deliberative bodies (such as legislatures) to reach group decisions.

Process of voting

Most forms of democracy use a common voting procedure:[2]

  • Individual registration and qualification
  • Opening the election for a set time period
  • Registration of voters at established voting locations
  • Distribution of ballots with preset candidates, issues, and choices (including the write-in option in some cases)
  • Selection of preferred choices (often in secret, called a secret ballot)
  • Secure collection of ballots for unbiased counting
  • Announcement of the winner of the election on the basis of plurality, majority or supermajority support
  • Proclamation of this result as "the will of the people," or a mandate

Voting in the United States

Many people today think voting is the most important right Americans have. There are many places in the world where people do not have the right to vote. By voting, people can make sure that their opinion is shared with community leaders. If you are a citizen of the United States and eighteen or older, you have the right to vote in local, state and national elections.[3]

One of the biggest political problems in the United States today is the lack of voter turnout. In the 2000 election, just over half the population (51%) voted.[3]

In the United States, many voters vote at a precinct or polling station. U.S. states also use mail-in ballots, absentee ballots and networked computers to register votes as well.

Voter registration

Voter registration is the requirement for citizens and residents to register specifically for the purpose of being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to enable people to register to vote is known as a voter registration drive.

In the United States, only 70 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote have registered.[4]

In all states, except North Dakota, registering to vote is required in order to cast a ballot.


To be eligible to register to vote, the individual must meet three basic requirements:[5]

  1. be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election;
  2. being a U.S. citizen; and
  3. be a resident of the jurisdiction where the individual is registering.

Under federal law, every state must allow residents to register to vote at least 30 days before Election Day, though many states extend the deadline to register. Additionally, in some states individuals who have been convicted of a felony or have been found by a court to be incompetent may be ineligible to vote.

Voting by state

Click on the links below for information on voting in:

See also: State by State Voter ID Laws
AAlabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • CCalifornia • Colorado • Connecticut • DDelaware • FFlorida • GGeorgia  • HHawaii • IIdaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • KKansas • Kentucky • LLouisiana • MMaine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • NNebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • OOhio • Oklahoma • Oregon • PPennsylvania • RRhode Island • SSouth Carolina • South Dakota • TTennessee • Texas • UUtah • VVermont • Virginia • WWashington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming

See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms

External links

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