Voting: A Step-By-Step Guide for Teens and Young Adults

Election Day is fast approaching. Year after year young voters (18-29) cast ballots in lower numbers than their older counterparts. According to Sunshine Hillygus, a professor at Duke University, despite their high interest in civic activism young people often don’t vote because they are overwhelmed by the process.

Below we walk you through the process and give you links to multiple, excellent resources. If you are a parent of a young adult who is voting age, please make sure they know how they are going to vote.

feet in voting booth
Please vote (Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash)

Step 1 Registration (See College Students Below)

The next general election is on November 3.

Your first step is to make sure you are registered to vote. It is not too late to register. However some states may require voters to register as early as one month before Election Day, so NOW IS THE TIME. For more information regarding voter registration deadlines in your state click here. The website (non-partisan) gives you a comprehensive state-by-state list with registration deadlines. The organization Rock the Vote also provides detailed information on state registration deadlines and upcoming elections.

If you think you may already be registered to vote but are unsure, has a form you can fill out which checks your registration status instantly. If your registration isn’t complete you can fill out this form from or this form from NextGen America. It takes two minutes.

Step 2 Absentee or Mail-In Voting (See College Students Below)

Now you are registered and ready for step 2. If you prefer not to or can’t get to a polling location on November 3, you may be eligible to vote by mail.

For information about vote by mail where you currently live, select your state from the dropdown menu here. Every state’s election rules are different, but Can I Vote takes you right to your state’s Absentee and Early Voting page where you can Request An Absentee Ballot.

Because state laws vary, if there is an issue, contact your local election office for help getting a mail-in or absentee ballot.

Once you get your mail-in/absentee ballot, fill it out. First, take a few minutes to read the instructions on your ballot carefully and make sure you fill out your ballot correctly. Some states have an envelope within an envelope so you will fill out your ballot, put it in an inner envelope and then in an outer envelope, sign it and send. Just follow the instructions on your ballot carefully-it matters.

Throw your completed ballot back in the regular mail. In some states postage is prepaid and in others you will need to affix a stamp. This year many states are providing ballot drop box locations where you can drop your ballot. Call your local post office or Google “ballot drop boxes” in your state and county for your drop box locations.

Step 3-Vote in Person

If you are planning to vote in person, go to and pick your state and then enter your street address. You will be told where you must physically cast your vote, what the hours of your polling place are and when the next vote takes place. This can’t be easier.

Figure out transportation to your polling place ahead of time. Get there early. Be patient. Bring a photo ID if you have one. Prepare to wait. And, not to sound like a mom but dress for the weather, bring a snack and this year, your mask.

Voting machines vary but there will be poll workers there to guide you. There is zero shame in not knowing how to use the machine. Zero.

Another option-Many states allow early in-person voting. Here is a list of those states. To sign up for early in-person voting, contact your state election office here.

College Students

College students can legally choose to vote where they go to school or their hometown. Just remember if you are away at school let’s say in New Jersey but your “home” is Rhode Island, and you choose to register in Rhode Island you will need an Absentee ballot. Again, here is the Voter Registration Tool to register to vote in less than 2 minutes.

Student voters should not have a hard time trying to register to vote at school. It is their legal right. If anyone gives you trouble contact the Election Protection Coalition and explain what is happening. Their phone number is: 866-our-vote. They will be able to help you.

In order to survive a democracy depends on its young people recognizing that voting is a privilege which can only be sustained by their continuing exercise of it. In 2020, according to the Pew Research Center Millennials and Generation Z will comprise nearly 40% of all American voters. Make this the year that young people’s voices are heard.

Show up for your country by voting in this year’s election and if you have additional questions, Plan Your Vote is an excellent resource which will give you all the information you need.

About Izzy Tabs

Izzy Tabs is a rising senior from North Caldwell, NJ studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a minor in Sport Management at Syracuse University. While on campus, Izzy is involved with many student media organizations such as her school’s student run television station Citrus TV and she is also an online editor and writer for the sports department at WAER Radio Station-an NPR affiliate. Izzy hopes to one day pursue a career in sports journalism and documentary filmmaking.

Read more posts by Izzy

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