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Can I still register to vote? What to know about same-day registration and states that offer it

Election Day 2020 is upon us. Did you forget to register? It’s not too late in some states, including critical swing states that could tip the race.

Can I still register to vote? What to know about same-day registration and states that offer it
[Photo: Dan Dennis/Unsplash]
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As we head into the final weekend before the 2020 election, it’s safe to say that many, many Americans are just waking up to the fact that—for whatever reason—they are not registered to vote. Perhaps they have procrastinated, or have tuned out the news, or have been working extra hard and simply missed the deadline.

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And what now?

The good news is, all hope is not lost for the unregistered masses in limited swaths of the country. As of this year, 19 states and D.C. offer some options for same-day voting, according to a recent roundup from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Generally speaking, that means that residents of those states can register and vote on Election Day, even if you’ve missed the deadline. In some cases, states may allow registration during the early-voting period, too.

But it’s important to know the rules of your state. Some states require you to go to your county’s election office if you’re registering on Election Day. Others may let you do it at your polling site. States also have their own rules about what you’ll need to do to prove your residency.

Exactly how many voters take advantage of these options during a typical election cycle is hard to say, but the implications of same-day registration are not inconsequential. A recent analysis by New American Economy found that 7 out of 13 swing states had same-day options, and voters in those states—particularly voters of color—could impact the election outcome if they took advantage en masse. NAE estimates 572,000 Hispanic voters were unregistered in those 7 states. Those same states could also contain 980,000 unregistered Black voters and another 305,000 Asian American voters, the analysis found.

If all this has you wishing you’d registered before the deadline, don’t despair. Vote.org keeps a list of registration deadlines for each state, where you can quickly find out if yours offers any option for same-day registration. Check out the full list here.

About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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