Returning a ballot
Returning a ballot to a drop box

August is an excit­ing time of the year for many young peo­ple. Instead of return­ing back to well-trod­den high school cor­ri­dors, grad­u­ates are prepar­ing to move to oth­er cities or states to attend col­lege. Some of us are also turn­ing eigh­teen or have recent­ly come of age, and thus con­se­quent­ly are new­ly eli­gi­ble voters. 

When I took my bal­lot out of my mail­box for the first time, I was eager to final­ly vote. I will be vot­ing in a con­tentious midterm cycle that could deter­mine whether repro­duc­tive auton­o­my and vot­ing rights endure in this country. 

At the same time, I was curi­ous about my options for par­tic­i­pat­ing in our democ­ra­cy after I head to off to col­lege. For instance, I won­dered: Would I be eli­gi­ble to vote in Cal­i­for­nia while I was study­ing there in November? 

If you or some­one you know is in a posi­tion sim­i­lar to mine, here’s what you need to do to be pre­pared to vote this sum­mer and autumn. 

All aspir­ing vot­ers must first join the rolls before they are eli­gi­ble to cast a bal­lot. Vot­er reg­is­tra­tion looks dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent states, so online tools like can help out­line the steps you will need to take to reg­is­ter or update your reg­is­tra­tion to vote based on your jurisdiction. 

Keep in mind that some states require vot­ers to have reg­is­tered a cer­tain num­ber of days before Elec­tion Day and may spec­i­fy a cer­tain num­ber of days required to estab­lish res­i­den­cy for the pur­pos­es of vot­ing in the juris­dic­tion. If you pre-reg­is­tered to vote when you were younger than eigh­teen, you can check the sta­tus of your vot­er reg­is­tra­tion using resources like

While it is not ille­gal to be reg­is­tered to vote in mul­ti­ple states, most states auto­mat­i­cal­ly unreg­is­ter vot­ers who have moved. 

You can choose to make sure that you have been unreg­is­tered in your pre­vi­ous home state by fol­low­ing the instruc­tions here

It is of course ille­gal and uneth­i­cal to vote more than once. You can only cast one bal­lot per elec­tion, even if you’re on the rolls in more than one jurisdiction.

Stu­dents gen­er­al­ly get a choice: they can vote in their home state or the one that they will be attend­ing col­lege in, and it’s pos­si­ble to switch between elections. 

How­ev­er, first term col­lege stu­dents who will be vot­ing in a new state should keep in mind that dif­fer­ent states have dif­fer­ent vot­ing require­ments. For exam­ple, some states require con­stituents to present state-issued IDs to cast bal­lots; oth­ers, like Wash­ing­ton, pro­vide mail-in bal­lots for all res­i­dents, and oth­ers still require vot­ers to make the trek to the polls. has a use­ful tool to help you locate in-per­son vot­ing cen­ters if your cam­pus doesn’t have its own. 

For vot­ers who want to vote in their home state despite attend­ing school in a dif­fer­ent state, absen­tee bal­lots are the way to go. These bal­lots will be mailed to your school address, and you will mail them back to your home state after fill­ing out your vote. You can request your absen­tee bal­lot here. Make sure to keep the rules and dead­lines for absen­tee bal­lots in mind when deter­min­ing when to vote!

After cast­ing your bal­lot, you can keep an eye on its sta­tus using a bal­lot track­er. If your state does not have an online bal­lot track­er, you can reach out to your local elec­tion office to ask for infor­ma­tion about your ballot.

Regard­less of where you decide to vote in the future, make sure to get your bal­lots in on time so that your votes will count. Vot­ing in Wash­ing­ton’s Top Two elec­tion ends on Tues­day, August 2nd at 8 PM. Bal­lots must be in drop box­es by then, or be in the mail by the last out­go­ing col­lec­tion time that day. 

Hap­py voting!

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