On Tuesday, voters around the United States will head to the ballot box to cast their votes in the 2018 midterm elections. If you’re planning to vote, you might still have some lingering questions about voting policies. For example, you may want to know what happens if you forgot to register to vote. If you haven’t registered already, you may still be able to cast your ballot — it just depends on where you live.
Many states require residents to register before a certain deadline in order to be eligible to vote. However, a handful of states allow Election Day voter registration, meaning you can go to your polling place to register and vote at the same time. According to Vote.org, if you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, or Wyoming, you are eligible for same-day voter registration.
If you live in Illinois, Maine, or Montana, you can also register to vote on Election Day, but you typically must head to a local election office to register prior to going to your polling place. If you live in one of these states, be sure to check local guidelines on Election Day registration. Moreover, if you live in North Dakota, you don’t have to register to vote at all — the state does not have voter registration and, therefore, you can simply head straight to your polling place to vote on Election Day.
If you don’t live in one of the aforementioned states and you haven’t registered to vote, you are likely out of luck if you were hoping to cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 midterms. If you aren’t sure whether you’re registered and need to check your registration status, this tool from Vote.org offers an easy way to determine your voting eligibility.
It’s also important to know what to do if you’re registered to vote, but your polling place cannot locate your voter record when you show up to vote on Tuesday. If this happens, you can usually still cast your ballot. Just be sure to ask for what is called a “provisional ballot.”
While provisional ballot laws differ a bit from state to state, typically they allow voters whose identity cannot be immediately verified at the polls to cast their ballots anyway. These provisional ballots are then examined by election officials and ballots cast by verified and registered voters are counted in the election tally. If you do end up needing to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, Vote.org recommends that you obtain written instructions about how to follow up with your local election office to ensure that your ballot was counted
That being said, if you’re a registered voter and you’re told you are not on the voter record at your polling place, be sure to verify with absolute certainty that you’re at the correct polling location before you request a provisional ballot. If you accidentally show up to the wrong polling place and cast a provisional ballot, there are 27 states in which your vote will not be counted.
Overall, if you haven’t registered to vote, there are a host of states in which you can still easily participate in the 2018 midterms via Election Day registration. Moreover, if you have registered to vote, but have your registration status questioned on Election Day, you can still take steps to ensure that your vote is counted.