National and State Elections Voter FAQ

Voter Registration FAQ

Voting FAQ

Who is eligible to register to vote?

Students can register to vote if they are:

  • A United States citizen
  • A resident of a state
  • 18 years of age or older on Election Day
  • Not currently imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony current
  • Not found by a court to be mentally incompetent

Are international students able to vote?

No. International students are not able to vote in U.S. elections. However, they are eligible to vote in elections for student government at USF. We encourage international students to be civically engaged in other ways, whether through community engaged learning programs, offerings on and off campus, or working through democratic processes in the school or community. You can also encourage your student peers, friends and family members to register to vote.

I am not yet 18 by Election Day, can I pre-register to vote?

Yes you can. By going to the California Secretary of State’s office, you can pre-register to vote and have that ready by the time you are 18 and able to cast your ballot.

Do I register at school or a permanent address?

You can register to vote at either address—it just depends on where you want to vote.

School address:

  • If you choose to register to vote on campus, you can participate in elections affecting your institution's community. Often times, when registering to vote on campus, your registration address and mailing address will be the same. Depending on state rules, you may still be able to vote absentee for elections in your institution's community. If you are attending college in California, you can register at your school address. You must plan to return after temporary absences, like summer break, but do not have to plan to reside at that address permanently.  

Permanent address:

  • You can register or remain registered at your permanent address in California or outside of the state (i.e.—your parent or guardian’s house). You can set up a separate mailing address so you can receive absentee ballots and other election-related forms at your campus address. That way, if you’re eligible to vote by absentee ballot, you can cast your ballot at school for elections taking place back home.

The choice about where you register to vote should reflect where you believe your vote will have the most impact and where you want your voice to be heard.

What if I’ve recently moved?

Great question. Confusion around this issue is one of the biggest barriers to young people, particularly students, making their voices heard in elections. The most important thing to remember is that you must cast your ballot, either in person or by mail, at the appropriate location assigned to your registration address.

If you have moved, be sure to register at your new address and complete a new voter registration form to update your new address. If you’re a college student and now living on campus, you can choose either to re-register (or register for the first time!) at your new location or vote in elections back home by registering at that address instead. If you want to vote at home but will be on campus for Election Day, be sure to request an absentee ballot.

The National Mail Voter Registration Form can be used to register U.S. citizens to vote, to update registration information due to a change of name, make a change of address or to register with a political party. It is important that you follow the state-specific instructions listed for your state. Get the form »

What type of ID do I need to register?

California’s voter registration form asks for your California driver’s license or ID number, or the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Make sure you have it when completing your registration form.

When must I re-register to vote?

  • You will need to re-register to vote whenever there is a change in residence address. However, if you move into a temporary residence that you do not intend to be your permanent residence, you can continue to use your prior residence where you were previously registered to vote as the address for the purpose of voting.
  • To change your political party preference.
  • To change your surname

Do I need to register for a political party to vote?

No. California does not require that you register with a party to participate in partisan primary elections. If you do not wish to register with any party, enter “Decline to State.” California law allows voters who “decline to state” an affiliation with a qualified political party or who affiliate with a nonqualified political party to vote in the primary election of any qualified political party. Additionally, you can be an independent voter as well which technically is known as “No Party Preference” (NPP). This is different from the “American Independent Party” which is in fact a political party.  In a California general election you can vote for any candidate regardless of what party you are registered with or if you are registered with “No Party Preference.” For presidential primary elections, NPP voters will receive a “non-partisan” ballot that does not include presidential candidates. In some states, however, some parties do not allow unaffiliated voters to participate in their party’s presidential, local, or county committee primary elections.

How do I know if I’m already registered?

Many counties allow voters to check their registration status online via their county election website. All registered voters (except those who register to close to the deadline) receive a “Sample Ballot” from their county election office. Registered voters also receive an official voter information guide from the California Secretary of State. Vote-by-mail voters begin receiving ballots four weeks prior to Election Day. If you do not receive these materials, you are most likely not registered at your current address and should contact your county election office immediately to verify and update your registration record.

What is the deadline to register to vote?

In California, you must postmark your application 15 days before Election Day.  Voter deadlines in other states vary.

Why is USF encouraging me to register to vote?

We want everyone in our community to register to vote because it’s important that the voices of our community are heard. There are many reasons to vote—when we vote and get our family and friends to vote, we can impact outcomes and change the debate. Some elections are decided by less than 100 votes. Registering to vote sends the message that you want new policies and change. Voting reflects our belief that USF students are not in a bubble, but very much part of the world where we can participate in changing the world in many ways, including at the ballot box. Voting is an effective political tool, just as protest is another form of political engagement and direct service a community engagement tool, vehicles that can spur more informed political participation. Registering to vote is the first step to becoming informed, making your voice heard, and creating actionable change.

What type of ID do I need to vote?

You do not need any ID to vote early or on Election Day in California. The only exception is for first-time voters who registered by mail or during a voter registration drive and failed to provide a California driver’s license number, state ID number, or the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number.

Where do I vote?

Make a plan. Look up your polling location and hours at The California Secretary of State’s website.

How can I vote?

By Mail:

  • Any registered voter may vote by mail in California. Students who wish to vote by mail must first submit an application in order to receive a mail-in ballot. Applications for a mail-in ballot sent by mail must be received by the county elections official no later than seven days before the election; otherwise you will need to apply in person at your county elections office to receive a vote-by-mail ballot for that election.
  • Completed vote-by-mail ballots must be returned in person or by mail before the close of polls on Election Day
  • Early In Person
  • All registered voters may vote early in person without an excuse. Early voting begins 29 days before an election. Some counties allow voters to vote early in person at select locations. Check with your County Clerk’s office for specific locations and times. The San Francisco elections office is found online here.

On Election Day:

  • The polls in California are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Will voting in California affect my federal financial aid?

Where you register to vote will not affect federal financial aid such as Pell Grants and Perkins or Stafford loans or your dependency status regarding FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Will registering to vote in California affect my driver’s license or car registration?

Registering to vote in California does not necessarily change your driver’s license and motor vehicle registration. However, as a full-time student in California, you may have to make these changes regardless of whether you register to vote in California. For more information, you may wish to contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Will registering to vote in California prevent my parents from claiming me as a dependent on their taxes?

No. students are often told that registering to vote in a different state from their parents will make them lose their dependency status. This is not true. Where you register to vote will have no effect on your parent’s tax status.

Does being an in-state or out-of-state student for tuition purposes affect my right to vote?

No. You may choose to. Vote in your college community or back home regardless of your tuition status.