The U.S. presidential election is the biggest event in American politics. It’s an exciting and complicated process that begins immediately after the preceding election and doesn’t end until the voters have their say.

What happens during this extended campaign is a quest not just for votes, but also for political contributions, favorable media coverage, online advertising exposure, social media – likes & tweets, endorsements, and all the other makings of a winning candidacy for the highest elected office in America. Key events along the way include the primaries and caucuses, the party conventions, and the debates—not to mention all the speeches, polls, and focus groups, plus the barrage of radio and television commercials imploring you to vote this way or that.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed. And that’s why the League of Women Voters produced this supplement. It is an update of the 2012 Newspaper in Education supplement, based on the LWV publication Choosing the President 2008: A Citizen’s Guide to the Electoral Process.

What is the League of Women Voters?

What does it do?

A primary undertaking of the League is to engage all Americans in the election process — from defending voters’ rights, to registering voters, to helping voters learn what the candidates think about the issues that impact every American’s life. The League is a community-based nonpartisan political organization that has fought since 1920 to improve our systems of government and public policies through education and advocacy.

How can you get involved?

Join passionate men and women in your community in the important work of keeping your community strong, safe and vibrant. Join us in making democracy work! Contact the League in your community to learn more.

The One-Stop Site for Election Information

You will find here:

  • Primary election dates and registration deadlines
  • Voter registration tool
  • Data on candidates in federal, state, & local elections
  • Your polling place location
  • Voting procedures
  • Overseas voting information
  • Other election and voting topics

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I register to vote?

Visit the voter registration tool at: www.VOTE411.org

What are the requirements to be eligible to vote?

You must be: 1) A citizen of the United States. 2) A resident of the state and 18 years old by the general election.

How do I know if I’m registered?

Within a few weeks after you send in or hand in your registration application, you should get a registration card or notice in the mail telling you that you are now officially a registered voter and where to vote. Hold on to that notice.

I’m a college student living away from home. Where should I register?

You can register either at your home or school address. It is important to update your registration each time you move. If you are registered at your home address while at school, remember to request an absentee ballot at least 30 days before the election.

I am registered, but I’ve recently moved. Does this affect my registration?

Yes. If you are registered and have moved within your current election community, contact your local election office to update your registration and determine where you should vote. If you moved outside of your old community, you will have to reregister in your new area before the registration deadline in your state. In many states, you can now verify online whether or not you are registered. Visit www.VOTE411.org to get started.

Are there other ways to vote besides going to the polls?

All states are required to have an absentee ballot (vote by mail) program to allow citizens who will be away from home on Election Day or who cannot go to the polls to vote. Some states also have early voting programs. For questions on other ways to vote and what to bring visit www.VOTE411.org.

What should I bring with me to the polls?

To be safe, bring your drivers’ license or another photo ID. In some places, a current utility bill, paycheck, or other document that includes your name and street address may also work. You can also bring notes, a sample ballot you’ve marked up, or any other information.

What if my name isn’t on the registration list at my polling place?

Get help from a poll worker to make sure your vote is counted. You should be given a provisional ballot or given directions to another polling place.

What kind of machine will I be voting on? Is it going to be different from what I’ve used in the past?

Some voters will face a new voting machine and others will continue to use the same equipment they’ve used in the past. To find out what equipment you’ll be using in your polling place, contact your local elections official or check VOTE411.org.