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Center for Civic Engagement

Election Frequently Asked Questions

Below you can find answers to students' frequently asked questions about the election process. If you have a question that you think should be included, email your question to

  • How do I register to vote?

    Contact your state's Secretary of State's office to register to vote. In Washington, you may register to vote online or by completing a voter registration form. Washington residents can visit to register online in advance of an election.

  • How do I find out whether I am registered to vote?

    Contact your state's Secretary of State's office. Click here to find your Secretary of State's page. Washington residents can visit to view and update their registration.

  • When is the voter registration deadline?

    Voter registration deadlines vary by state, with some having deadlines in advance of an election and some allowing voter registration at the polls. To look up your state's voter registration information, click here.

    In Washington, the deadline for online and mail-in registrations is eight (8) days before an election, so for the Fall 2020 election, that date is October 26. Registrations sent via mail must be received by this date. You can register in person at your county elections department through Election Day. Visit for the next Washington deadline.

  • Where do I vote?

    You can look up your polling location here. Washington, Oregon, and Colorado are vote by mail states, so your ballot will be mailed to your registered address and must be returned by election day. Washington residents can visit to view and update their registration.

  • Do I need to bring anything with me when I vote?

    This depends on your state, but generally you are required to bring proof of residency. Click here to learn what your state's ID requirements are. Washington is a vote by mail state, so while you need a state or national ID to register, you do not need one to vote.

  • I am a student. Do I vote in the town I go to college in or the town I grew up in?

    If you are a college student, you have the legal right to vote where you go to college OR in the town where you grew up. It's your choice.

    There are benefits and drawbacks to both options, so think through which community you want your vote to impact to make your decision.

  • I'm registered at my home address. How do I get my ballot while I'm at college?

    As a student registered at your home address, you can request an absentee ballot to ensure you're still able to vote. Click here for information on requesting an absentee ballot in your state.

    In Washington, you can update your mailing address online at to receive your ballot while you're away from home.

  • What is a general election?

    An election to fill public offices and vote on different measures. Each state has a general election in November and a primary election to decide what will be on the general election ballot prior to November. Some states, like Washington, also have special elections at other times during the year. 

  • When is the next general election?

    November 3, 2020

  • What is a caucus?

    A meeting of party members to select delegates to represent the state's interests at the national party convention. Basically, members are voting for a delegate who represents their choice rather than the actual candidate. Any voter registered with the party may attend the caucus.

  • What is a delegate?

    Every state divides itself into smaller territories known as districts. Political parties situate themselves in every district in America. These smaller groups elect officials known as delegates to represent the district during a national convention.

  • What is a primary election?

    A state run election in which voters select the measures and candidates who will run on each party's ticket in the general election. For presidential elections, voters are actually electing delegates to attend the national convention who will represent their choice rather than directly selecting a presidential candidate.

  • Why is Iowa so important?

    Iowa has the first caucuses of the nominating season for Presidential election years. The results from Iowa's caucuses narrows the field of candidates and sets the stage for future primaries and caucuses.

  • What is Super Tuesday?

    In a Presidential election year, it is a day in which many states simultaneously hold their primary elections.

  • What are the Republican and Democratic National Conventions?

    After the primaries, each party holds a national convention. Each state is represented by delegates. The main purpose of a national party convention is to unify party members behind the party's platform and to nominate candidates for president and vice president. Nomination goes to the candidate who holds the majority of the delegates in the primaries and the caucuses. However, party nominations are usually known in advance of the convention.