No printer, no problem: How to register to vote without needing to print out a form
Posted October 3, 2020 9:07 a.m. EDT
CNN — Niina Werronen had easily changed her voter registration address before.
But this year's request was a little more complicated. Away from campus and stuck at home, the third-year University of California - Los Angeles student had no printer. And without one, she was stuck.
Werronen filled out a form online, a tool offered by many advocacy organizations, but lacking the appliance to print it out, the form never left her screen. Months went by. Ultimately, Werronen asked a classmate to print it out, and walked to a post office to drop it off.
"Voting is pretty important to me so I eventually figured it out, but I could totally see how it could stop people from voting," she said.
For most Americans aiming to register to vote, they'll typically need a state ID or a Social Security number and a few minutes to complete an online form.
But for would-be voters in a handful of states, they'll need access to a printer, too -- a frustrating hurdle made more complicated by the pandemic.
Most young Americans own a laptop or computer. Just about everyone over 18 has a smartphone. But a printer?
That's what the library is typically for -- and visiting one could potentially expose voters to the coronavirus. It's a hassle that may deter some folks from registering to vote at all.
Nine states, including major electorates like Texas, don't offer online voter registration and instead require residents to print and mail in their registration forms. And in the cases of people who've moved and try to register in their new state, they'll usually need a new state ID, which means they'll have to print proof of residency, too.
The deadline to register to vote is quickly approaching in many states. If you're printerless and still hoping to vote, here's what to do.
Get your form mailed to you
You can request a voter registration form through Register2Vote.com, a nonpartisan voting resource that mails your information to you for free. The resource covers your return postage, too.
It may be too late in some states to request registration from Register2Vote.com, though. Staffres send pre-filled registration forms within one week of their request during the final month of registration, the site said.
Over text: HelloVote
Usually the texting tool HelloVote can submit users' information online directly to states, but in the case of the few states that don't accept online registration, HelloVote can mail you your registration form. It'll send a stamped envelope along with the registration forms, too, so it's up to you to sign and mail it in.
To get started, text HELLO to 844-344-3556, and HelloVote will send you information about where to vote and when early voting starts and remind you to vote as Election Day nears.
Requesting the bot's assistance too late could mean the mail arrives after the voter registration deadline has passed. You can find every state's deadline to register to vote on Vote.org, a nonpartisan voting resource maintained by the federal government).
HelloVote is powered by communication startup Twilio, whose CEO has repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump.
Find a neighbor through NextDoor
Nextdoor, the social networking platform for neighborhoods, is often an unwitting venue for political scraps among neighbors. Now it's encouraging users to channel that energy into political action.
Nextdoor partnered with Vote.org to create the Voter Help Map on the platform. Users can add themselves to the map if they're willing to print voting materials for their neighbors nearby, and neighbors who need a printer can contact that neighbor through the map, Nextdoor said in a release.
Instead of interacting with people inside one's home, Nextdoor advises neighbors who offer their help print out and deliver items themselves and leave them on people's doorsteps to minimize contact. Hand washing before and after printing is encouraged, too.
Ask your library -- they can help
Many public libraries have blank voter registration applications on hand, said Sarah Brannon, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project.
Some locations are closed due to the pandemic, but others offer curbside service that won't require you to leave your car, she said.
You can fill them out at libraries if they accept them or mail them to your local election office.
The states that require paper voter registration
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3
Arkansas -- deadline to register is 30 days before Election Day
Maine* (Can register in person on Election Day)
Mississippi -- deadline to register is 30 days before Election Day
Montana* (can register in person on Election Day)
New Hampshire* (can register in person on Election Day)
Oklahoma -- deadline to register is 25 days before Election Day
South Dakota -- deadline to register is 15 days before Election Day
Texas -- deadline to register is 30 days before Election Day
Wyoming -- deadline to register is 30 days before Election Day