Who Can Vote?
Who Can Vote?
Thea Brodkin (Voter Service Chair) gives expert video advice on: Who can vote in US elections?; Why do I have to be 18 to vote?; Why can't felons vote? and more...
Who can vote in US elections?
US citizens can vote if they are eighteen years old and if they fulfill the registration requirements. It's different from state to state and if they are not in prison for a felony or still on parole -- that's the law in most states -- and also if they are not judged incompetent by a court.
Why do I have to be 18 to vote?
That's an interesting question because it's very much being discussed right now. For example, right now there is a bill in Sacramento that says that if you're 17 now but you'll be 18 before the general election in November, you should be allowed to vote in the primary because you should be allowed to select the candidates that will be on the ballot in November. The bill hasn't passed, but it might some day and the League is in favor of that. We would like to see 17 year olds be able to vote if they're going to be 18 by the general election. However, don't remember that 18 year olds just got the vote after Vietnam. They didn't have the vote for a long time. And unfortunately, it's really sad, 18 to 21 year olds have the lowest voting turnout of any age group. So we have to continue to try to work on that.
Why can't felons vote?
"If you've committed a crime you've lost your right." That's on the one hand. Other people say: "If they serve their sentence we believe in rehabilitation. They should be allowed to vote. It would help them on the right path of being good citizens again." So those are the two arguments it comes down to. It's as simple as that.
Can I vote if I've been arrested?
If you're waiting for trial, you're not convicted yet. You can still vote. We have an absentee ballot, you can vote by mail. If you're in jail not for a felony but for a misdemeanor or something, you should be allowed to vote. But these people don't know that they're supposed to be allowed to vote, so they don't vote and the prisons don't do anything to help them vote in the jails. So the league has tried very hard to get this information into the jails.
Who decides if I'm too mentally incompetent to vote?
A court would have to decide that. Unfortunately, I think we have a lot of incompetent people voting, but who knows what's the definition. But those are just severely handicapped people. We have a lot physically handicapped and visually handicapped people voting all the time, more and more. But it's just the mentally incompetent, has to be ruled by a judge.
Do I have to live somewhere for a long time to vote there?
That's a state by state thing too. In California it's only 15 days now. You have to register 15 days at a specific address in California before an election and you can vote in that election. And we even have rules for the homeless can vote. So they can use like a clinic or something as their address to get their mail, then they're allowed to vote.