First Time Voter? Here's Everything You Need to Know

how to vote by mail

The election is basically upon us. And if you’re voting for the first time, it can be overwhelming.

Although voting should be super simple (it is our constitutional right, after all), voting laws have made things increasingly complicated. So if you’re having trouble navigating things, here’s a little guide to get you started.

What to Bring

You will need to bring some sort of ID, but the type varies by state. Every state has very strict laws on this matter, so make sure you look up your state’s requirements ahead of time. To make things easy, just head here to the National Conference of State Legislature’s websites, where they outline precisely what type of ID is required in your state.

Find Your Polling Location

Not sure where you’re supposed to go? Head to’s handy polling place locator here. Unfortunately, not all polling stations have been logged in the database yet, so if it comes up blank, you have a second option: go to your state government’s website. For example, if you live in New York, you would go here. For other states, simply type into google “[your state] polling locator.”

View Your Ballot in Advance

Although many of us know the candidates for the big races (like for president) there are actually a ton of smaller, local races that are just as important. These races may just have the most impact on your day to day life so it’s important you have an idea of who the candidates are before you get to the poll. You can take a look at your sample ballot in advance by entering your address at Ballotpedia here.

What to Do if You Get Turned Away

If for any reason you get turned away at the polling station, tell the person working there that you request a provisional ballot and by law, they are required to give you one.

So, what is a provisional ballot? In essence, it’s a safeguard to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote, is allowed to vote. After you cast your provisional ballot, they will conduct an internal investigation as to whether or not you are, in fact, eligible to vote.

To learn more about provisional ballots, head here.

Note: Only three states do not offer provisional ballots: Idaho, New Hampshire, and Minnesota.

Voting By Mail

Looking to vote by mail? Here’s our full break down of how to do it.


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Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.