If you're planning to vote in the upcoming primaries or in the general election, it's important to know your state's laws for participating in elections. In some states, these laws include deadlines for registration, party affiliation requirements, and/or ID requirements. Of course, you need to be registered to vote in order for your vote to count. You may be wondering: Do I have a voter registration card, and do I need it to vote?
According to Rock the Vote, most states, but not all, issue voter registration cards. So, you're not guaranteed to have one if you're registered to vote. And even if you are in a state that issues these cards, you still might be registered without receiving a card. No state requires you to present the card at the polls. However, the cards can serve some important purposes, so if you haven't received one within six to eight weeks of registering, or sooner if your election is coming up, it's a good idea to call your state.
Voter registration cards let you know a few things: 1) that you're officially registered to vote; 2) that your personal information (name, address, affiliation) has been accurately recorded; and 3) where your polling location is. You may register too close to an election to receive your registration card in time (make sure to check your state's registration deadlines!), but it's a good idea to ring your state and make sure your registration was completed correctly so you don't end up with a problem on your hands on election day. The state can also reissue a voter registration card if it's been lost in the mail (or your bedroom).
Importantly, there are a few states in which a voter registration card can be used to fulfill their voter ID laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: Alaska, Oklahoma, and Virginia. South Carolina also accepts the card as valid ID, but only when it contains a photo. It's definitely a good idea to have one in your wallet in those states.
Your registration can take a few weeks to go through, so the sooner you get on it, the better. Check the U.S. government's website for information on where to register, whether you can do so online, and whether you're already registered. And if you don't get a voter registration card in time for election day, just give your state a call to make sure everything is squared away.