How Early Can You Register To Vote Before An Election? Here's What To Know

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If there's anything actionable that we can take from the miserable roller coaster ride that was the 2016 presidential election, it's the fundamental importance of exercising our all-too-important right to vote. While it seemed as though women were rallying around Hillary Clinton in the months before she ultimately lost the election, it was a much closer race between the candidates than many of us anticipated, and Donald Trump ultimately — and unfortunately, to say the least — won. Considering Clinton won the popular vote, though, it's clear there was a disconnect between what many people really wanted and what they actually got. What does this tell us? It tells us that every, single person needs to get themselves to the voting booth in all future elections in order to make their voice heard and prevent similar situations from happening. So, how early can you register to vote before an election? I know you want to get yourself registered ASAP so you can be sure that you're ready to go for 2018, 2020, and beyond.

Voting registration rules and deadlines differ between states, and the timelines also depend on whether you opt to register in-person (the old school method), by mail, or online. You can check out all the details for your home state on Vote.org, but let's take a look at a few examples, shall we?

California

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According to the CA DMV, Californians can register to vote in-person at the Department of Motor Vehicles or by submitting a completed voter application online or by mail. Regardless of the registration method you choose, the deadline to register to vote in the Golden State is 15 days prior to the election. For this fall's congressional election on Nov. 6, be sure you've dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's by Oct. 22. To be eligible to vote in the next presidential race on Nov. 3, 2020, get yourself registered no later than Oct. 19.

Illinois

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In Illinois, you actually have right up until Election Day to register in-person, according to Vote.org. This is great news for the procrastinators among us — but that's only because you're required to register almost a full month in advance of polling day if you prefer to go the online or snail mail route. The deadline to register by mail or online in Illinois is 28 days before Election Day, so mark your calendars for Oct. 9, 2018 for the upcoming congressional race and Oct. 6, 2020 for the next presidential election. If you're considering registering in-person during that four-week grace period, you should contact your local election office before you go.  

New York

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Across all registration methods, the deadline to register to vote in New York state is 25 days prior to Election Day. New Yorkers, whether you plan to register in-person or by sending in a paper or digital form, be sure you're registered by Oct. 13, 2018 for the congressional contest and by Oct. 9, 2020 for the presidential election.

Remember that registering for the 2018 congressional elections is absolutely critical, especially if you — like me — fell within that category of "extremely discontent" (to put it gently) after the results of the 2016 race for the White House. According to FairVote, just 40 percent of the eligible voting population has actually submitted a vote during recent congressional contests (for presidential elections, this stat is a nearly-as-depressing 60 percent). Given the years women spent fighting for the right to vote, these numbers are just sad, and with everything such a mess in Washington, it's more important than ever that we support candidates at the Senate and House level who can effect change while we (ever so impatiently) count down the days until Nov. 3, 2020.

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