College students can choose where to register and vote. This is because college students have dual residency, both back home and on campus. You can register back home using your parents’ address, or you can register at school using your campus address. The choice is yours. At VoteAmerica, we strongly recommend registering to vote with your campus address. This will allow you to vote in-person, either during the early voting period or on Election Day. Otherwise, you will either need to go back home to vote, or you will need to vote by absentee ballot. Neither process is complicated, but both are more complicated than simply registering to vote on campus.
Same day registration
In some states, you can register to vote on Election Day. This is called “same day registration” and it’s great. All you need to do is show up with ID that proves your identity (your name and date of birth) and your in-state residency. If you have an in-state driver’s license, that’s great! If not, bring whatever photo ID you have, and then some official document that shows your name and address. Official documents including bank statements, utility bills, paychecks, campus tuition bills, or any government document that shows your name and address.
Skip ahead to your state to see if your state offers same day registration.
You can vote using an absentee or mail-in ballot. Absentee and mail ballots are the same thing. Both allow you to vote by mail, which is a safe, secure, and convenient way to vote. Every state will let you vote by mail if you have a valid excuse for not voting in person, such as being away at college. But almost all states now offer “no-excuse absentee voting” — which means that any registered citizen can vote by mail. Voting by mail is easier than people think it is:
- Request your mail-in ballot
- Receive your mail-in ballot
- Return your mail-in ballot by the deadline
We’ll guide you through every step of the absentee ballot and vote by mail process. Also if anyone asks you: absentee ballots and vote by mail are the same exact thing!
You can take advantage of early voting and cast a ballot before Election Day. Early voting takes place in person before Election Day. Early voting is great: you can vote on a weekend, and you’ll be helping to keep lines shorter on Election Day. Check out early voting locations, hours, calendars, and guidelines here.
Election Day voting
Voting on Election Day remains the most popular way to vote. And it’s straightforward.
- Find out where to vote. In almost all states you’ll need to go to your designated polling place. It’s not the end of the world if you go to the wrong one, but if you do, you’ll have to vote a provisional ballot.
- Bring the right ID with you. There are federal voter ID laws and state voter ID laws. The easiest way to meet both is to bring your in-state driver’s license or state ID card with you. If you don’t have one, it’s best to bring one government issued photo ID, and another official document that shows your name and current residential address. An “official document” includes a recent utility bill, bank statement, pay stub, residential lease, college tuition invoice, or any other government document that shows your name and address. If you don’t have proper ID, you’ll have to vote a provisional ballot.
About this information
Student ID information is courtesy of VoteRiders and used with their permission (2022).
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