Since the ratification of the 26th Amendment in 1971, the US Constitution has provided the right to vote in local, state, and federal elections to citizens over the age of 18. This means that a significant fraction of Clayton High School’s seniors will be able to vote for the first time in this year’s general election.
However, being able to vote and actually voting are not the same thing. It is a historical fact that young voters are the ones most likely to refrain from going to the polls–in 2018 for example, voter turnout among those between 18 and 29 years of age was 35.6%, in contrast with 66.1% for those over the age of 65. Low turnout among young voters may be partly a result of systems that make it difficult to vote for the first time, like the requirement for voter registration. In Missouri, a prospective voter must be at least 17 ½ to register, and while registration can be performed in several ways, each method requires that the relevant documents be sent to the state government by October 7. Registering to vote is important–unlike some states, Missouri does not allow voter registration on Election Day, and even those voters who wish to vote by mail must still be registered beforehand.
Voter registration can be performed either online, by mail or in person. Physical voter registration forms (for submission by mail) can be found either at state government offices like the DMV, or online on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website. After the form is downloaded or otherwise acquired, it must be printed and filled out, and then sent by mail to the office of the county clerk.
An online registration form can also be found on the Secretary of State’s website. It consists of exactly the same questions as the physical form, in a digital format. Notably, Missouri’s online registration form requires a signature, and therefore must be completed on a device with a touchscreen. It’s a good idea to complete the online form either on a tablet or with a stylus, as it’s difficult to create a good likeness of a physical signature with only a finger on a small screen.
Finally, Missouri has an in-person alternative for voter registration. To register in person, one must travel to the county clerk’s office and fill out a registration form there. For St. Louis County, the office is located in St. Ann, near Lambert Airport; for St. Louis City, the office is located near the intersection of Olive and Tucker Blvd.
While voter registration can sound intimidating, the process is not complicated. Both the online and physical forms require only the last four digits of the prospective voter’s Social Security number, as well as contact information and an address. Including some form of identification is optional in the case of the physical form, and isn’t even possible with the online one. A few days after completing the form, the applicant will receive acknowledgement of registration in the mail as well as a Voter Identification Card if they chose to include identification with the original application.