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Protect Your Vote! Deadlines for Voter Registration Are Nearing in 7 Crucial Swing States

Registering to vote has gotten easier, with more online options for voters.

There are all sorts of scenarios for how the GOP might steal the 2012 election, but this much is certain: that becomes much harder to do if there is higher voter turnout, which hinges on voter registration. In seven of the ten swing states, registration deadlines for the November election are quickly approaching—in early October.

In Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire, voters can register and vote on Election Day. But in the others—Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida—you must register, usually one month ahead.

What follows is a swing state-by-swing state rundown of voter registration deadlines and other state-specific considerations—in response to recent Republican-backed changes in state laws intended to thwart and discourage Democratic voting blocks. It’s not very difficult to get past these hurdles if you are paying attention.

The first step in voting in the 2012 presidential election is to make sure your registration is valid, which is especially important for new voters, people who moved since they last voted and newly married women who have changed their legal name. Next is having the proper ID needed on Election Day—most states require new voters to vote in polling places. The last step is knowing that you know these rules, in case GOP troublemakers try to intimidate you or impede your rights.

In every state, to be an eligible voter you must be: a U.S. citizen, over age 18, satisfy state residency requirements, not be convicted of a crime that can nullify your voting rights (usually a felony) or have that right restored, and not be judged to be mentally incompetent by a court. In recent years, the GOP has sought to add another factor—whether or not you have a specific kind of state-issued photo ID. That’s what many ongoing lawsuits are now  about. People who favor less restrictions are winning a majority of these, but they typically have been appealed by the GOP. 

Swing State No. 1: Florida

Florida is the biggest swing state, with 29 Electoral College votes. Florida voters must register 29 days before the election, which for the 2012 presidential election is Monday, October 8, which is Columbus Day—a holiday. That means the deadline is Tuesday, October 9. (This link is to the state’s info page.) Be smart and do it sooner.

Florida voters must sign and mail their voter registration application to their county election supervisor’s office—not the state. There’s another big factor for registered Florida voters. Even though the state’s voter registration system is electronic and can easily move your file anywhere in the state, the state’s ruling Tea Party Republicans passed a law requiring that anyone who moved since they last voted to update their registration address with county election offices by re-registering. That’s a big pain.

If you don’t update your address, you’ll get pulled aside by pollworkers on Election Day and given a provisional ballot—and then be required to present proof of your new address at county election offices within a few days before your ballot is officially counted. This is a ridiculous and unnecessary step, but it’s the law.

Swing State No. 2: Ohio

Ohio has a 30-day voter registration deadline, which falls on Sunday, October 7—the weekend. That means the final day for registering to vote is Tuesday, October 9 due to the Columbus Day holiday. Because Ohio has online voter registration, you can fill out a application online—which has to be printed out, signed and mailed to the county board of elections.

If you have moved since you have last voted, you also must update your registration address to get a regular ballot. You can do that online, or print a change of address form and then mail that to your county board of elections.

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