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CNN Sunday Morning

Ins and Outs of Voter Registration
May 16, 2004 

CHOI: Well, it may seem like the November election is a long way off, but if you're not a registered voter, the deadline to get signed up is creeping up on you.

We have some tips now on how to register and when to do it, so your voice and your choice will count come election day.

Here to talk about that is David Moon of the Center for Voting and Democracy.

So David, take us through the registration process. What do you need to do? And what should you take into consideration at this point?

DAVID MOON, CENTER FOR VOTING AND DEMOCRACY: Well, I guess the first thing that you have to consider is timelines. Now every state sets its own timelines for registration, as well as identification requirements. So you've got to make sure that you get your registration form, as well as any absentee requests in on time.

Now the window ranges from generally about five weeks in advance to same day registration in some states, but same day registration is the exception to the rule. There are only about six states that allow that. And in terms of identification, states range from anything they're requiring a Social Security number, to a driver's license. And then others will allow you to track none of the above if you don't have that.

But again, every state has its own requirements. So you've got to check with your local state board of elections to figure out what your particular state requires.

CHOI: And David, I know these days, you can actually register in many states, just like getting a driver's license. But where else can you register?

MOON: Well, you know, the -- I guess the traditional way. You can go to the post office, most public libraries. But increasingly, there -- a lot of state board of elections have all this information on -- and forms on the Internet. And so, and one of the greatest things to happen, actually, is that there's now a national voter registration application that's used in all but maybe three states or so.

And so you can just go type in your information, print it out, and mail it. Now the important thing to remember is if you're going to be mailing in your voter registration, when you go to the poll to vote for the first time, you need to bring with you an identification. So driver's license or a utility bill, a paycheck, or a government check will do.

CHOI: What about if you move or, you know, change your name or address?

MOON: Yes, I mean, the general rule of thumb here is if you have some sort of change like that, you have to notify your board of elections pretty promptly. If you're moving to a different state, for example, you're going to have to re-register to vote in that new state.

If you're moving within states, you know, address change form should be sufficient. I mean, actually, the National Voter Registration Form allows you to do that.

But again, you're still subject to time and reporting requirements. So please make sure to follow all the time requirements, because we don't want you to go to the polls and then be turned away.

CHOI: Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to vote?

MOON: Well, you know, I think most people in the country don't realize that there's no national right to vote. And we -- you know, probably the constitution should be amended to add that.

That being said, none of the 50 states allows non-citizens to vote. But there are seven cities that allow non-citizen voting. Usually in local or school board elections. And actually, Takoma Park, Maryland, where the Center for Voting and Democracy is located, is one of those jurisdictions. And Chicago, and a couple in Maryland.

CHOI: What about naturalized citizens?

MOON: Naturalized citizens can vote. Yes, that is the case. So shouldn't have any problems with that.

CHOI: All right, what if an absentee ballot is needed? Where do I go? What then?

MOON: Actually, on the Center's Web site,, we have voter information center where we have links to all these requirements, including absentee forms.

Now if you're overseas, for example, there's a federal post card application that you use to vote absentee. And that's available through consular offices, as well as through your office on a military base.

If you're within the United States, you're going to have to get that from your local state board of elections. But again, you can do that in person at the board of elections office or on the Internet.

CHOI: David Moon from the Center for Voting and Democracy, thank you so much. It's been truly educational.

MOON: Thanks for having me.

CHOI: Sure. Thomas?

ROBERTS: Sophia, we move on now to a different kind of vote. And you don't need to register for this one. Can America fairly elect its idol? You know, it's down now to the final three, but if you think you know which one is the clear winner, you might want to think again.


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The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]