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What You Need to Know About Voting – and Why

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What You Need to Know About Voting – and Why


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Forget the noise of the news cycle; understanding the ins and outs of the US voting system helps you shape the future. 

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The 2020 US presidential election is pivotal for Americans of all political stripes. But amid the noise of the news cycle, it can be hard to make sense of all the information out there about the practical side of voting. How do you register? How can you keep your registration current? What obstacles might you face when trying to vote, and why? And, most importantly, why should you vote at all? Thankfully, law professor Kim Wehle offers sensible answers to these questions and more in What You Need to Know About Voting – and Why. 


The US voter registration system is complex. 

Some countries make voting compulsory for all citizens above a certain age. In the United States, however, voter registration is voluntary. Out of the total population of eligible voters in America, only a portion are registered, and an even smaller subset actually exercises their right to vote. 

The National Voter Registration Act lets all citizens register to vote in federal elections at the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provided they bring the necessary documentation. Otherwise, registration procedures vary across all 50 states.

The actual process of voting in the United States is also far from simple. 

Procedures for casting ballots vary by state. Some states require certain forms of identification, for example. Some states offer an early voting period. All offer absentee ballots in some form, but aside from Americans living overseas, or military members and their families stationed away from their full-time residences, absentee rules vary. Some states will give an absentee ballot only if the voter can demonstrate a valid reason for not ...

About the Author

Kimberly Wehle is a law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She also holds another teaching fellowship at American University’s Washington College of Law. She is a former legal analyst for CBS News. 

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