Why and How You Should Double-check Your Voter Registration

Buzzle Staff Jun 30, 2019
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Like a full checkbook representing an empty account, a voter registration card does not mean you are actually allowed to vote.
The ability to elect our government representatives is one thing that makes democracy great. The fact that 25 percent Americans are not even registered to vote tells how much this right is taken for granted. Don't glance at your voter I.D. just yet - according to a 2012 Pew Research Center report, 24 million of US registered voters were not even registered.
Yes, you may still have your card in your wallet, and it may even be honored on election day. But technically speaking, one in eight voter registrations is invalid. Even if you are permitted to vote when you show up at the polls, if the results are ever contested, your vote could be thrown out.
In the electoral college system, one invalid vote doesn't make a huge difference - but considering the possibility of all 24 million invalid registrations being discounted gives pause, as it means that over 12 percent of voting Americans don't get a say in their representative government.
Take this opportunity to double-check your registration and renew if necessary. If you haven't voted in a few years, don't assume you're okay. Districts may have been reconfigured, polling places may have changed, and you may be one of the 12 percent.

Change of Address

A wrong address is the number one reason for invalidation, affecting 12 million people. If you have moved since the last election, even if it was just down the block, re-register today.
Even if you haven't moved, it's worthwhile to double-check the address on your registration - a simple typo can technically keep you from the voting booth.
Even local moves count, because you can cross into another congressional district just by walking down the block in some places, and it's important that you vote for the representative that represents the area where you live.
If you've moved to a different state, make sure you're not still a registered voter in your old state - double registration may keep almost 3 million people from the polls.

Name Change

If you have recently got married or divorced, or switched to a new name out of the blue, your old voter registration is technically invalid. The name on your card should match the name on your driver's license. This is one sticking point that may get you turned away.

Party Change

If you've had a change of heart, renew your registration to reflect your new party affiliation. Having the wrong affiliation on your registration won't affect your ability to vote in general elections. Once the curtains close in voting booth, you can vote by your choice.
Party affiliation is important during primary elections however, so if you want to have a say in who gets on that ticket on the big day, you should re-register with your newly-adopted party.

Death

Are you dead? No, probably not. But the Pew report found that almost 2 million citizens who have shuffled off this mortal coil may still have plans to elect the next president - because their voter registrations are still active.
While this doesn't seem to present a major problem - after all, polling place staffers are trained to turn away zombies, citizens or not - it actually represents one of the more insidious methods of voter fraud. Yes, some unscrupulous types (In politics? No!) cast multiple votes to get their preferred candidate elected.
They use their own vote first, then vote their way down the list of dead-but-active registered voters. Accusations about this type of fraud fly from the pointed fingers of the losing party after every election, so if a loved one dies, do your part by notifying the election board.

Get Valid

Visit your state's Board of Elections website to find out how to register or renew in your state. Most states allow you to do it online, and your card probably has the appropriate web address printed somewhere on it.
Most states also offer voter registration at the DMV for those who prefer waiting in line over clicking twice, but the Pew report found that up to 25 percent of DMV registrations never made it onto the voter rolls in many states. Be vigilant!