Even in countries where registration is the individual's responsibility, many reformers, seeking to maximize voter turnout, have pushed for wider availability of the required forms; one such effort in the United States led to the passage of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 ("Motor Voter Law") and similar laws, which required states to offer voter registration at motor vehicle departments (driver's license offices) as well as disability centers, public schools, and public libraries, and to accept mail-in voter registration.
Voter Registration is mandatory for all citizens 18 years of age or above. An individual has 8 weeks after turning 18 to register, but may register at any time with no penalty being enforced for failure to register. Similarly, if a change of address causes an individual to move to another electorate (Electoral Division) they are legally obliged to notify the Electoral Commission within 8 weeks. In Australia, details of house and apartment sales are in the public domain. The Electoral Commission monitors these and sends a reminder (and the forms) to new residents in case they have moved to another electorate, making compliance with the law much easier.
Periodically the Electoral Commission conducts door-to-door and postal campaigns to try to ensure that all eligible persons are registered in the correct electorate.
The one registration covers Federal, State and Local voter registration. In Australia it is a legal offence to fail to vote (or at the very least, attend a polling station and have one's name crossed off the roll) at any Federal or State election, punishable by a fine. The amount of the fine varies between federal and various state elections. Usually people are issued with warnings when it is found that they have not voted, and they are given an opportunity to show cause for not voting. Acceptable reasons for not voting may include: being in the Accident Department of a Hospital, being ill (requires confirmation), being out of the country on election day, religious objections, being incarcerated etc. I forgot is not considered acceptable and will incur a fine.
Voting is voluntary in local council elections.
Traditionally voters cannot register within three weeks of an election, but in 2004 the Howard Government passed legislation that prevents registration after 8PM on the day that the writs are issued (this can be up to ten days after the election has been announced). This legislation has been considered as controversial by some Australians who contend it disenfranchises first-time voters or those who have forgotten to re-register. To ameliorate this concern, when the Electoral Commission considers an election announcement is likely with a few weeks it conducts public awareness advertising on the need to register or to update registration.
The Register is also updated using the following sources:
Same-day registration is also permitted.
Voter registration in Finland is automatic and based on a national population register. Each citizen is assigned a register ID at birth which contains a six digit date of birth, a century marker, and four other characters to make the ID unique which are mostly random, but one of which also indicates the person's sex. Permanent residents appear in this register even if they are not citizens, but this information is marked on the register. People in the register are legally obliged to notify the register keeper of changes of address. Changing the address in the register automatically notifies all other public bodies (for example the tax district for local taxation and the social security authorities) and certain trusted private ones (e.g. banks and insurance companies) making the process of moving residence very simple. Close to election time a notification is mailed to registered persons informing them of the election and where and when to cast their votes. Only citizens may vote in national elections but all residents can vote in local elections.
The current system of registration, introduced by the Labour government is known as rolling registration whereby electors can register with a local authority at any time of the year. This replaced the twice-yearly census of electors which often disenfranchised those who had moved during the interval between censuses.
Following an experiment in Northern Ireland using personal identifiers, such as National Insurance numbers and signatures, the number of registered electors fell by some ten thousand; it is understood that this may have taken off the electoral roll fictitious voters. The system of individual registration used in Northern Ireland may be piloted in Great Britain if the recently introduced Electoral Administration Bill is made into law in time for the local elections in 2006.
Across the country, the registration of electors is still technically the responsibility of the 'head of the household', a concept seen by some as being somewhat out of step with modern society. This current system is controversial as it is possible for one person to delete people who may live with them from the electoral roll.
While the federal government has jurisdiction over federal elections, most election laws are decided at the state level and the true authority to interpret and enforce those laws comes at the local level. Because of this, the administration of elections can vary widely across jurisdictions.
Registering to vote is the responsibility of individuals in the United States. Voters are not automatically registered to vote once they reach the age of 18. Every state except North Dakota requires that citizens who wish to vote be registered.
Traditionally, voters had to register at state offices to vote, but in the mid-1990s efforts were made by the federal government to make registering easier, in an attempt to increase turnout. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the "Motor Voter" law) forced state governments to make the voter registration process easier by providing uniform registration services through drivers' license registration centers, disability centers, schools, libraries, and mail-in registration. Some states allow citizens to register to vote on the same day of the election, known as Election Day Registration. States with same-day registration are exempt from Motor Voter, namely: Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.Voters may register at the local election office (which is usually at city or town hall) or, one may call the election department and request a voter registration form through the mail. Voter registration forms may be found at public libraries and registries of motor vehicles. These forms must be filled out and mailed to the local election department. Also, one may register at a voter registration drive. The only states with online voter registration are Arizona and Washington, though legislation has been introduced in other states.
Some states prohibit individuals convicted of a felony from voting, known as felony disenfranchisement. One may register wherever one has an address, regardless of its permanence- for example, a college student living away from home may register to vote in the college's city, even if that is not a permanent address. In most states, one must register, usually 30 days before a given election, in order to vote in it. Six states, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming, allow for Election Day Registration.
In some states, when registering to vote, one may declare an affiliation with a political party. This declaration of affiliation does not cost any money, and it is not the same as being a dues-paying member of a party; for example, a party cannot prevent anybody from declaring his or her affiliation with them, but it can refuse requests for full membership. Some states, including Michigan and Virginia do not have party affiliation with registration.
In general elections, a voter may choose to vote for all of a particular party's candidates (straight-ticket voting) or to vote for candidates from different parties for different offices (Party X's candidate for President, Party Y's candidate for Senator, Party Z's candidate for Governor). In a general election, one's political party affiliation does not determine which party's candidates one may vote for.
More information on voter registration and voting may be found at League of Women Voters or Declare Yourself.