Voting is the official choice that you make in an election by casting a ballot. 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.
In a democracy, voting commonly implies one of three things:
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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.
To be eligible to register to vote, the individual must meet three basic requirements:
- be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election;
- being a U.S. citizen; and
- 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
- A • Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • C • California • Colorado • Connecticut • D • Delaware • F • Florida • G • Georgia • H • Hawaii • I • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • K • Kansas • Kentucky • L • Louisiana • M • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • N • Nebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • O • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • P • Pennsylvania • R • Rhode Island • S • South Carolina • South Dakota • T •Tennessee • Texas • U • Utah • V • Vermont • Virginia • W • Washington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming
- Voting Rights Act
- National Voter Registration Act
- Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002
- Federal Election Commission
- Election Assistance Commission
- State by State Voter ID Laws
- Electoral College
- Voter registration
- Vote fraud
- Terms and definitions
- U.S.A.gov, "Voting and Elections"
- Federal Voting Assistance Program, "Home"
- United States Census Bureau, "Voting and Elections"
- Can I vote.org, "Home"
- Rock the Vote.org, "Home"
- New York Times, "Why vote?"
- New York Times Review of Books, "The Court & the Right to Vote: A Dissent"
- The New Yorker, "Win or Lose"
- Yale University Press, "The Voting Wars"
- CQ Press, "The Voting Rights Act"