Voting in elections – where and how to vote

The USA is a democracy, which means citizens vote to decide who represents them. By using you vote, you have have a say in choosing who will represent you in your community, in your state, and in the national government. Read about who can vote. Learn where, how, and why to vote.

Man voting at a voting booth
Photo: iStock

Voting is an important part of being a citizen in the USA. Find out how to vote.

Who can vote

You cannot vote until you get your citizenship. To vote, citizens must be 18 years old. They must register to vote in their state. You cannot vote if you are a convicted criminal.  If you pretend to be a citizen so you can vote, you will be arrested and maybe imprisoned.

Register to vote

Registering to vote means putting your name on the list of voters in your community. You will register online or by mail. If you move, you must register again with your new address.

You will fill out a form with some basic personal information. Most households receive voter registration information in the mail. There is a deadline to register before each election. Every state has a different deadline. Find the deadline in your state and how to register in your state.

Where to vote

The place where you vote is called a polling station. Polling stations are usually located in public facilities such as schools, churches, or sports halls. You can use a locator to find your local polling station.

If you know that you will not be able to vote in person, you can request an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot is also called a mail-in ballot because you fill the ballot out at home and mail it. This is a good option for people who are away during the election or for people who cannot get to the polling place for other reasons.

How to vote

If it is your first time voting, you will need to bring proof of residence to show that you live in your home. This can be an ID card, or a utility bill, bank statement or check with your address on it. If you have voted before, you do not need to bring proof of residence.

A volunteer will ask you your name and show you which booth you can use to vote. A voting booth is a small enclosure. It allows you to have privacy while you are voting. If you cannot speak English, you can bring someone into the booth to help you vote. In some states, you may be able to get a ballot in your language. You will be handed a paper with the names of the candidates and information about laws. You will have to make your choices by filling in a form with a pen. When you are done, you will close your ballot and put it into a box.

Types of elections


A primary is a competition in which political parties choose their candidates for the next general election. The winning candidate runs in the general election against the winning candidate from the other political party or parties. In the USA, the two major political parties are the Democratic party and the Republican party. In some states, only voters registered with a political party can vote in primaries.

General elections

In a general election, voters choose between the winners of the primary elections. A national election is held in November every two years. The presidential election is held in November every four years.

Local elections

Local elections are when voters choose council members, judges, mayors, and other local officials. Every region of a state has different dates for local elections. You can find your state and local election information.

Why should I vote?

Voting is one of the best ways to make a difference in your community. It is your chance to share your opinion. You can help choose representatives to make decisions for your city and country.

The information on this page comes from the US, and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice.