What are the requirements to be eligible to vote in federal elections?

By: LawInfo
The simple requirements for federal election voting eligibility include being over eighteen (18) years of age and a U.S. citizen, by either birth or the naturalization process. Plus, people who are in prison are typically not permitted to vote. However, there is no federal law that automatically excludes people who have been convicted of a felony from voting. However, most states have laws regarding voting rights for people who have been convicted of a crime classified as a felony, convicted of certain types of felonies, or who are in jail. You will need to check with your state election board in order to determine whether your felony conviction will prevent you from voting, and whether you may be able to get your voting rights reinstated at any point.
Furthermore, a person must be legally registered to vote in his or her jurisdiction in order to be able to vote in a federal election. To that end, there are a number of other requirements that apply to prospective voters and states as they process voter registration application. Title III of the Help American Vote Act (“HAVA”) outlines identification requirements and procedures for voting in federal elections, including general elections, primary elections, special elections, and run-off elections for any elected federal position. These requirements apply to all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the United States Virgin Islands. However, parts of HAVA apply differently to different states. Whether a state accepts any type of federal funding, however, the state must still comply with HAVA.
HAVA contains specific provisions that deal with identification requirements for some classes of voters. For some people who register to vote by mail for the first time after January 1, 2003, HAVA requires that they produce a certain form of identification the first time that he or she votes in a federal election after January 1, 2004. If the voter does not produce the necessary identification, however, he or she will still be permitted to cast a provisional ballot.
However, a voter that is affected by these HAVA provisions may be exempt from providing the required identification. For example, if a voter provides the specified identification documents along with his or her voter registration application, he or she will not have to produce the required identification in order to vote at the next federal election. Likewise, if a voter registration applicant furnishes his or her driver’s license number and/or the last four digits of his or her social security number, and the state is able to match that information against another state record, then he or she will be exempt from producing the required identification at the next federal election. Additionally, if a person is entitled to vote by absentee ballot or a method other than in-person voting, either pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act or the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, then he or she is exempt from HAVA’s identification requirements as outlined above.
Furthermore, states generally are not permitted by HAVA to process voter registration applications unless they contain a driver’s license number and/or at least the last four digits of his or her social security number. If an applicant states that he or she has neither of these numbers, then the state must assign him or her a unique identification number and process the application. Nonetheless, if an applicant has one of these numbers and simply refuses to provide it, then the state may not process his or her application.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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